A three-year court case involving 90’s chart topping, and recently revived, rock outfit No Doubt and gaming powerhouse Activision has finally come to a verdict. The parties were at war over Activision’s Band Hero, which allegedly used avatars of the band members in ways the band themselves had not agreed to.
No Doubt launched the lawsuit back in 2009 after it was discovered that a bonus feature, or something players must unlock, gave gamers the option to use the avatar of band members, for example Gwen Stefani can be unlocked to perform the Rolling Stones song Honky Tonk Women, a tune telling the tale of prostitute sex – something the band did not want to be associated with. No Doubt have claimed that various other band members could be unlocked and used to perform other band’s songs; herein lies the beef.
The band had granted a limited licence to Activision to use their likeness, but a judge has now ruled that they took their limited access too far, stating that “this was a commercial agreement that granted a limited license to Activision for use of No Doubt’s character likenesses in songs, all subject to No Doubt’s prior approval. Activision’s exploitation of the intellectual property was subject to the terms of the agreement. Having agreed to its terms, Activision cannot be heard to claim that its use of the property in ways expressly prohibited by the agreement is protected by the First Amendment.” Says the LA times
No one has spoken on the band’s behalf yet, but the case had been sided with the band pretty much since the beginning. Back in 2011, a state appellate declared: “that the avatars appear in the context of a video game that contains many other creative elements, does not transform the avatars into anything other than exact depictions of No Doubt’s members doing exactly what they do as celebrities.”
Activision claimed that they were in the clear under the 1st amendment act (freedom of speech) – but that obviously didn’t fly. The state supreme court maintained the state appellate’s claims, and denied Activision’s plea to have the case totally dismissed.