Things are looking good for rock band No Doubt. Less so for game publisher Activision.
Last spring, the group sued Activision over a breach of contract. Activision’s Guitar Hero allowed players to unlock No Doubt avatars and turn the band into “virtual karaoke players”.
As Kotaku previously posted, No Doubt said in a statement last fall that the band “agreed to place avatars containing their name and likeness performing three No Doubt songs” but that Band Hero allows their use in more than 60 other songs, all without the group’s knowledge or approval. (No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” and “I’m Just A Girl” appear in the console versions of Band Hero, with “Excuse Me Mr” featured in the Nintendo DS version.)
Furthermore, individual band members can be “isolated into solo performances of these cover songs and placed randomly in countless variations”.
According to No Doubt’s claim, that goes against the contract it signed with Activision granting its likeness in Band Hero and that Activision refused to change the band’s appearance beyond the agreed songs, saying that catering to No Doubt’s request would be “too expensive”.
To this claims, Activision told Kotaku, “Activision has a written agreement to use No Doubt in Band Hero – an agreement signed by No Doubt after extensive negotiations with its representatives, who collectively have decades of experience in the entertainment industry. Pursuant to that agreement, Activision worked with No Doubt and the band’s management in developing Band Hero. As a result, Activision believes it is within its legal rights with respect to the use and portrayal of the band members in the game and that this lawsuit is without merit. Activision is exploring its own legal options with respect to No Doubt’s obligations under the agreement.”
A Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge certainly thinks the suit has merit, issuing a tentative ruling that rejects Activision’s attempt to use freedom-of-speech protections in its use of No Doubt avatars the Los Angeles Times reports. Activision has the right to appeal the ruling. Previously, the company had attempted to paint the suit as a copyright issue rather than a right-of-publicity issue.