Courtney Love Threatens Guitar Hero 5 Lawsuit Over Kurt Cobain Avatar

Video game blogs and message boards have been debating the appropriateness of Kurt Cobain’s posthumous inclusion as a playable character in the recently released Guitar Hero 5.  Some think it’s a welcome tribute, others find it a bit creepy if not outright distasteful.

But what does Cobain’s widow Courtney Love think?  Well, one needs look no further than her Twitter account:

For the record this Guitar Hero [expletive] is breach of contract on a Bullys part and there will be a proper addressing of this and retraction. WE are going to sue the [expletive] out of Activision we being the Trust the Estate the LLC the various LLCs Cobain Enterprises.

While Love’s main gripe seems to be the appearance of Cobain’s character model and a feature that allows it to perform other artist’s songs, Activision Vice President Tim Riley told The Guardian that she was very cooperative in the creation of the game:

Courtney supplied us with photos and videos. She picked the wardrobe and hairstyle, which turned out to be the ‘Teen Spirit’ look, then we went back and forth over changes – some subtle, some not so subtle.

Love, for her part, doesn’t seem to agree:

Activision is fulllo f sh*t… i never intended to APPROVE this sh*t, they are doing a recall you can be sure of that… wait til you see what my lovely lawyer has cooked up, i never ever signed off on this.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that surviving Nirvana members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl are also unhappy with the use of Cobain’s likeness:

While we were aware of Kurt’s image being used with two Nirvana songs, we didn’t know players have the ability to unlock the character.  This feature allows the character to be used with any kind of song the player wants. We urge Activision to do the right thing in ‘re-locking’ Kurt’s character so that this won’t continue in the future.

Activision defended itself in a statement released Thursday, saying that it “secured the necessary licensing rights from the Cobain estate in a written agreement signed by Courtney Love to use Kurt Cobain’s likeness as a fully playable character in Guitar Hero 5.”

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Senior Correspondent Andrew Eisen

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  1. 0
    Chaplain99 says:

    Guys, if Activision got the necessary mechanical licenses to use the songs, and then got the permission from the estate to use the likeness and image of Cobain, then Activision is in the clear. No amount of attorney b.s. (no offense to attorneys) can change the fact that (it looks like) Activision is solid on this one.


    "HEY! LISTEN!"

  2. 0
    GrlGmr says:

    And we all know that musicians never, EVER perform songs that weren’t first performed by them, right? Kurt was making his own music from the first moment he picked up an instrument, right?

    Nope, all those covers are just figments of our imaginations.

  3. 0
    Deamian says:

    Nirvana members and Courtney (3-4 people): "Heeeeey.. Like, yeah, no, don’t.. don’t uh.. don’t use Kurt’s image in a video-game… Even if you secured the rights… Not nice."

    Nirvana fans (Millions) : "Hey! Let us incarnate our beloved and mourned real Guitar Hero! Thank you Activision for the tribute! Courtney? You’re still alive? Who cares…"


    Another match of Artists vs Those ensuring the Artists continuity. FIGHT!!

  4. 0
    DarkSaber says:

    "God, in His infinite wisdon, created everything to serve a purpose."

    With the exception of Courtney Love. That day he let the work experience kid take a crack at things.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  5. 0
    JDKJ says:

    I’m pretty sure that you’re as wrong as wrong can be. Political cartoons are usually satire and/or parody, both of which fall under the "fair use" exemption.

    And think about what you’re saying for a second. If Kurt Cobain, as a well-know public figure, had no rights in his own likeness as you suggest, then why would Activision have sought a license agreement in the first place? They’d have simply gone ahead and used his likeness without seeking anyone’s permission because, technically, there’d be no need to seek permission.

  6. 0
    Namaps says:

    I’m pretty sure the law is set up so that reasonably well-known public figures DO NOT have a right to their likeness. I doubt the writers of political cartoons are out seeking the permission of presidents and congressmen all the time.

  7. 0
    JDKJ says:

    And you seriously believe that Courtney Love sat her own ass down at the conference table completely alone and didn’t use a team of $1000-an-hour attorneys to negotiate the license agreement on her behalf?

  8. 0
    JDKJ says:

    There’s no such thing as "coincidence." God, in His infinite wisdon, created everything to serve a purpose. Some things share God’s purpose in common, that’s all. 

  9. 0
    Meohfumado says:

    Too bad Kurt didn’t bother to stick around for that daughter…he would’ve been able to provide plenty for her had he not chosen the easy way out and ABANDONED her while she was a toddler by taking the easy way out instead of manning up and being a father.

    I honestly don’t get the hero worship of this guy.  He was a d-bag who ran away from a daughter who needed his love.  Eff him.

    "You know what I wish? I wish all the scum of the Earth had one throat and I had my hands about it."

  10. 0
    chadachada321 says:

    …I put that word into Wikipedia, and after reading the description I noticed " For the Nirvana song, see With the Lights Out." And there’s a song called Curmudgeon. Freaky.

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  11. 0
    chadachada321 says:

    She simply might not have read the fine print. I side with Activision here if it went like this:

    "So, Kurt’s image is going to be used in his songs, then?"

    "Yep, the two songs that are his in GH5."

    "Hmm…alright. I’ll sign it."


    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  12. 0
    chadachada321 says:

    But that’s not even an issue! (Note Tom Morello/Slash argument several comments above)

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  13. 0
    chadachada321 says:

    Honestly, I disagree. I see absolutely no difference in the importance of whether he plays in his songs or any song. If I was a famous person, I’d be honored just to have my likeness in a game, and it’d be pretty stupid to make it so I was only used during my songs. It’s not like Activision is making it so you can’t use him during his songs, he’s just allowing players to use him during any song. Why Courtney is bitching about this is beyond me.

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  14. 0
    DarkSaber says:

    Who cares. She sucks, Kurt Cabain sucks, Nirvana sucks. Guitar Hero 5 sucks.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  15. 0
    JDKJ says:

    Which is why I find the knee-jerk reactionaries who leap to accusations of "greedy bitch" typical of the knee-jerk reactions which are often made here. Putting aside the fact that if Courtney Love sat on her ass for the rest of her life and didn’t lift a finger, she’d probably be well-taken care of by the money which continues to roll into the Cobain estate and is therefore probably not too hard up for money and therefore doesn’t have much need to extort a dollar outta Activision, no one pauses for a minute to consider the possibility that she’s more interested in protecting her husband’s image and memory than she is in making a buck. 

  16. 0
    Attack_Gypsy says:

    This isn’t taking sides, but just sharing some info.

    Courtney Love controls Kurt’s estate. On behalf of her and her daughter. She has been very tough in allowing his image, name, etc. to be used in anything. Even though her personal life has been a train wreck, she has been praised many times for her handling of the estate.

    Something sounds fishy here. There might have been either a misunderstanding, or someone screwed up. Activision might have believed they could take advantage of her. Or she might have screwed up. We’ll find out when it goes to court.



    Yes, I am a liberal. I also believe in a strong military, less government, and the right to bear arms. ~ Me Calling an illegal alien an undocumented worker is like calling a crack dealer an unlicensed pharmacist. ~ Me

  17. 0
    GoodRobotUs says:

    Kurt would probably be pissed off at both sides over this to be honest, commericialism and greed were what pushed him into depression in the first place, and it didn’t really matter what side of the divide it was on.

  18. 0
    JDKJ says:


    And I think that’s Love’s point and what a lot of people here just aren’t understanding. She signed up for "X" and ended up getting "Y." If that’s true, then she’s every right to be pissed. And every right to sue.

  19. 0
    hellfire7885 says:

    Then don’t play as him?

    Seriously, the way somw word it seems as if once he’s unlocked all other characters become locked. It you don’t want to play as him, don’t effin play as him.

  20. 0
    Killj0y says:

    I saw a screenshot showing cobain in GH5 and my immediate reaction was one of anger that they would pimp the likness of a deadman out to sell video games.

    I’m not going to ding Courtney Love for using her husband’s songs and memory for monetary gain.  She was a passable artist before cobain and can easily make her way in life without him.  I certianly think that if Kurt can help to provide for his child in some way and maybe aid other people through grants or LLC’s then go for it but for some reason it still irks me.


    If she honestly thought that activision was going to limit kurt to his own material and signed the stuff in good faith with that proviso then she’s got every right to sue the pants off of them.

    I don’t really have any desire to play as Kurt, ever, it’s still too creepy.

  21. 0
    JDKJ says:

    There’s a difference between saying "I intend to approve the use of Kurt’s likeness performing his own material" and "I intend to approve the use of Kurt’s likeness performing the material of others." The two are not the same. And it’s very possible that she would have been unaware of the fact of the latter until after the game was unveiled.

  22. 0
    hellfire7885 says:

    So instead of simply going "Hey ,they remembered him ,sweet" they’re going "Bawwww, he’s signin songs we didn;’t make" except for Courtney there who is looking to cash in on it.

    I[‘m just happy Cobain is well remembered. And hey, in Guitar Hero 3 Slash and Tom Morello were i nthe game and were able ot play songs they never helped with, Bret Michaels was even in it and I doubt he’d have thrown a shitfit if he was an unlockable vocalist. I mean, if it has a character maker I won’t doubt that people would just make him anyway.

  23. 0
    JDKJ says:

    No need to copyright. A person’s likeness is recognized at common law as being their property, and theirs alone, to exploit as they choose. It’s not in the public domain. Certainly not during their lifetime. And probably not for a long, long time after their death.

  24. 0
    Valdearg says:

    You know, I wasn’t planning on getting GH5, due to shitty song selection, among other things.. But now, I might see if I can scrounge the money together just because I think Courtney Love is a greedy whore. Fuck them, they have plenty of money. (Not that Activision DOESN’T, but they aren’t the ones threatening to sue.)

  25. 0
    Baruch_S says:

    I’m no laywer, but does Activision even need permission to use Cobain’s likeness for an avatar? To my understanding, the likenesses of public figures such as entertainers and politicians are public domain. How do you copyright a face?

  26. 0
    Kajex says:

    At which point the court will argue that she can work twitter and have the mental capacity to attempt to sue others, which doesn’t denote mental retardation, even if it still makes her a moron.

  27. 0
    JDKJ says:

    Any incapacitation which would function to render a party incapable of giving their informed consent to an agreement – from intoxication to mental retardation – can be a possible basis to nullify an agreement.

  28. 0
    Adamas Draconis says:

    Actually it might. Mental incapacatation has been used as grounds to anul a contract, usually marrage contracts but what the hell.

    Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

  29. 0
    MrKlorox says:

    It doesn’t specify if "this" refers to ALL SONGS or THE LIKENESS, PERIOD.

    Most seem to think she’s implying she didn’t approve the likeness at all. I think she just thought it was only gonna be Nirvana songs.

  30. 0
    Kabyk says:

    lol. My favorite part is the "I never intended to APPROVE of this".This doesn’t make any sense and is contradictory in and of itself.

    It’s like giving someone your car keys and then saying "I didn’t intend for them to actually DRIVE the car." Or,

    "I gave her an engagement ring, but I don’t want to get married."

    Dumb people are dumb. And greedy.

    The End.

  31. 0
    MrKlorox says:

    I frankly don’t think she’s that intelligent. It was probably a legalese issue where she thought it was only for Nirvana songs but Acti gets it on all of them.

  32. 0
    BearDogg-X says:

    Seems to me that Courtney Love is trying to extort more money from Activision. Apparently she signed a contract granting Activision to right to use Cobain anyway they saw fit in the game, so she has no case.

    Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Hornets, Jack Thompson can geaux chase a chupacabra.

    Proud supporter of the New Orleans Saints, LSU, 1st Amendment; Real American; Hound of Justice; Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always

    Saints(0-3), LSU(3-0)

  33. 0
    MrKlorox says:

    To me it seems she is implying she signed off on the likeness, but she thought it was for only the Nirvana songs. Whereas Activision seems to be saying the contract was for all songs.

    Could she have been intentionally duped? Plausible.

    Could she have simply not been paying enough attention to what she was signing away? Much more probable.

    Perhaps a bit of both.

  34. 0
    Kajex says:

    My point is that if Courtney wanted to make such a claim (a possibility, but again, we know they’re not), she would have had the good sense not to post it on Twitter like anybody was going to take her seriously. She should have at least had the sense to be coherent and civil about it…

    … Who am I kidding, this is Courtney Love, innit.

  35. 0
    Erik says:

    I’m guessing she needed a fix and some quick cash from Activision was what she needed.  Then when she sobered up she didn’t remember signing any rather legally binding documents.  And I don’t think "well I was seriously fucked up" will hold up in court.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  36. 0
    Lou says:

    OK I can agree with their point of view here. If they wanted to make him a playable character they should of kept him with his Nirvana songs and not put him to sing others. But Courtney’s BS is beyond stupid. Besides I find it funny that she is still trying to milk her late-husband’s legacy no matter how small it was.

  37. 0
    Monte says:

    Why would Activision lie about having a sign and legal bounding document. I mean, they would have to produce such a document in order to defeat the lawsuit, so it would be useless to lie about it.

  38. 0
    Kajex says:

    You know… Activision COULD be lying, that’s a possibility.

    But even if they were (and I doubt it), why the hell would I care what Courtney Love thinks about it if she thinks the only place reporting on it that’ll matter is her fucking Twitter? Nevermind the lack of professionalism besides, if they have her signature, it’s fucking over.

  39. 0
    Austin_Lewis says:

    The whole ‘wait till you see what my lovely little lawyer has cooked up’ part sounds more like a scheming bitch trying to gold-dig than, you know, a real argument. 

    I still say Love killed Kobain. Also, isn’t Johnny Cash in guitar hero 5?

  40. 0
    KayleL says:

    Activision is fulllo f sh*t… i never intended to APPROVE this sh*t, they are doing a recall you can be sure of that… wait til you see what my lovely lawyer has cooked up, i never ever signed off on this.

    Wow, a little too much public anger there.

  41. 0
    JDKJ says:

    If merely having a person’s signature on an agreement was summarily and entirely dispositive of a dispute between the parties, then the expenditure of countless hours of court time and resources spent resolving contractual disputes could and would have been avoided. And there’d be no need for the entirely confusing and difficult to navigate "parole evidence rule." 

  42. 0
    MaskedPixelante says:

    I don’t see the problem here. If Activision has a signed document, then that’s the end of it. Unless Love’s attorneys intend to prove that she was high at the time of signing, which doesn’t sound like it would be good for her.

    —You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

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