In the latest entry of intellectual property owners suing video game manufacturers, the band No Doubt filed a lawsuit against Activision earlier this month. The suit is based on the band’s objection to the use of the band members as avatars which game users can use to perform songs other than the band’s own material. The suit specifically references the possibility of the band’s front person, Gwen Stefani, being made to perform the Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Woman, the lyrics of which reportedly are offensive to Stefani.
Regular readers of http://www.rightofpublicity.com may recall the suit filed by Courtney Love against Activision, over the potential use of Kurt Cobain being made to perform music that Cobain would have objected to on artistic grounds.
An interesting twist to the No Doubt case is that the band had a contract with Activision for certain uses of the band and its music. Apparently the dispute, then, is about the other uses a game player can make of the No Doubt characters. Questions that the lawsuit will surely tackle include whether the use by Activision constitutes a breach of contract, and whether the use may somehow be defensible as a fair use or other non-infringing use of the No Doubt band members.
Recent draft right of publicity legislation reflects the video game industry’s lobbying efforts to make disputes such as the No Doubt lawsuit a thing of the past. In an effort to align video games with other statutorily-exempted uses, the lobbyists for the video game industry would like video games to be considered a protected medium and not subject to liability for right of publicity claims.
Here is a link to one of many articles reporting the story: http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/61134