EMI Sues BlueBeat Over Beatles Tunes; No Doubt Sues Over Band Hero

The music industry has never been averse to letting its lawyers do the talking, and today bring two more instances of lawsuits filed over the chaffing interface between the music industry and the digital world. Record label EMI is suing the online music distribution site BlueBeat.com for selling digital versions of Beatles’ music online without authorization, and rock-pop band No Doubt has filed suit against Activision for using their likenesses in their brand new Band Hero video game.

Band Hero (screenshot)

EMI is suing U.S.-based music Web site BlueBeat.com for copyright infringement, alleging the site is selling Beatles tracks online illegally. BlueBeat has been offering songs for $0.25 apiece, including an extensive list of Beatles tracks, both older released and the newly-remastered versions released in conjunction with The Beatles: Rock Band. The problem, according to EMI, is that BlueBeat doesn’t have any authorization to sell Beatles material: the Fab Four’s music is famously not available in any online music store (including Apple’s iTunes), and the band’s catalog remains one of the last major holdouts from digital music distribution.

Music industry watchers have been keeping an eye on BlueBeat in recent months, and many speculate EMI will be just the first of the major labels to file copyright infringement actions against the company. This summer, BlueBeat removed all links to Apple’s iTunes from its service, with the CEO of parent company Media Rights Technologies Hank Risan claiming to be “shocked” that Apple did not have compulsory licenses to manufacture or distribute content via the Internet. “Until Apple is fully compliant with government regulations, iTunes will not be permitted on our sites,” Risan wrote.

BlueBeat has not commented in the EMI lawsuit.

Separately, rock-pop band No Doubt has filed suit against Activision-Blizzard over the use of their likenesses in the just-released Band Hero video game. According to the complained, Activision does have a contract to put No Doubt into the game, but not to enable gamers to use No Doubt avatars to perform songs by other artists. An example given in the complaint says players can use No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani’s avatar to perform the Rolling Stones song “Honky Tonk Women,” amounting to “an unauthorized performance by the Gwen Stefani avatar in a male voice boasting about having sex with prostitutes.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and an injunction on sales of the game. The band also wants Activision to recall all existing copies of Band Hero.

No Doubt’s lawsuit follows grumblings for former Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic over the use of a Kurt Cobain avatar in the latest version of Guitar Hero, which enables players to use the Cobain avatar in songs by other artists.

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