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Activision, No Doubt reach settlement in Band Hero lawsuit

No Doubt
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Assuming you lived through the latter half of the 1990s, you likely know No Doubt as the spunky, ska-influenced Californian rock group most famous for hit songs like Just A Girl, Spiderwebs and Don’t Speak (and if you clicked any of those links you’ve likely now got those tunes irreparably stuck in your head — you’re welcome). Despite the band’s bouncy, radio-friendly demeanor however, they don’t take too kindly to corporations attempting to exploit their image, thus shortly after Activision released Band Hero in 2009, the group filed suit against the megalithic publisher.

The issue, it seems, is that Band Hero allows players to unlock virtual characters based on No Doubt’s real-world likenesses. There’s a digital simulacrum of that one guy with the mohawk, that other guy who plays guitar, the third guy who kinda looks like a young Tom Waits, and, of course, lead singer Gwen Stefani. That alone wouldn’t be a problem, but due to how Band Hero is set up, players can use these characters to perform songs by bands other than No Doubt. Songs like Poison’s classic power ballad Every Rose Has Its Thorn, or the inexplicably numerous Taylor Swift tracks initially included with the game. Not wanting to be so flagrantly associated with these other acts, no matter how objectively excellent or terrible they might be, No Doubt filed suit against Activision a mere day after Band Hero hit shelves, claiming that Activision’s latest rhythm game had become a “a virtual karaoke circus act.”

If this all sounds familiar, it should: Courtney Love, former Hole frontwoman and widow of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, expressed massive outrage at Activision’s use of Cobain’s likeness in 2009’s Guitar Hero 5 for reasons that mirror No Doubt’s lawsuit. While’s Love’s vitriol never spawned a raging court battle — according to Activision Love signed an agreement explicitly allowing for the usage of Cobain’s likeness in the game’s various modes — she did express her extreme displeasure and plans to take Activision to court via a now-defunct Twitter account. Keep in mind that the following quotes are entirely verbatim: “For the record this Guitar Hero shit is breach of contract on a Bullys part and there will be a proper addressing of this and retraction,” Love wrote. “WE are going to sue the shit out of ACtivision we being the Trust the Estate the LLC the various LLCs Cobain Enterprises,” she later added.

Back to the No Doubt suit: Though the lawsuit was initially filed in 2009, No Doubt’s legal team and Activision have been haggling over the debacle for nearly three years. According to the Associated Press, the suit was finally scheduled to be heard in court on October 15, but apparently the two sides decided to hash things out beforehand. An agreement was officially put into writing on Monday, October  1. Unfortunately, details of the nascent accord between Activision and No Doubt are being kept secret, and though we reached out to multiple Activision representatives, the replies we received all indicate that the publisher has no intention of sharing the details of this case now, or at any time in the near future.

Earnest Cavalli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Earnest Cavalli has been writing about games, tech and digital culture since 2005 for outlets including Wired, Joystiq…
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