No Doubt About It: Band Sues Activision

Hot on the heals of the release of Activision’s Band Hero, the group No Doubt has filed suit against the game publisher for turning them into a "virtual karaoke circus act."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the suit alleges No Doubt’s contract with Activision only allowed the band’s likeness to be used in three of its own songs, but in reality the band can be made to sing up to 62 different songs through the game’s Character Manipulation feature.

According to the band’s manager:

“The band [members] are bitterly disappointed that their name and likeness was taken and used without their permission,” manager Jim Guerinot said today. “They agreed to play three No Doubt songs as a band…. Activision then went and put them in 62 other songs and broke the band up [and] never even asked.”

To which Activision replied:

“Activision believes it is within its legal rights with respect to the use and portrayal of the band members in the game and that this lawsuit is without merit.”

The LAT article quotes a lot of back and forth between the band’s manager and Activision’s official statement. It will be interesting to see how the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, will pan out.

This isn’t the first time Activision’s "Hero" franchise of music games has faced controversy. In September, Courtney Love complained of the use of Kurt Cobain’s likeness in Guitar Hero 5. While Activision said it had approval from Love to use Cobain’s likeness, she later said she never approved the avatar.

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  1. JDKJ says:

    That’s not correct. Generally, there are at least two non-copyright based legal principles which preserve to the owner the right to publish their image and likeness. One is the tort-based principle of "invasion of privacy" which creates liability for certain unauthorized uses of an individual’s image or likeness and the other is the property-based principle of "right to publish" which similarly creates liability for certain unauthorized uses of an individual’s image or likeness. Unless the contract expressly and explicitly transfers specific rights of publication away from the owner and to another, then it could very well be the case that the other has no right to publish the image or likeness in any manner other than as may be specified by the contract.

  2. Chaplain99 says:

    Here’s the thing about image: you can’t copyright an image or a band name, you can only TRADEMARK it.  If Activision had a contract signed (a.k.a. asked really nicely), they’ve got the rights to the image and likeness unless explicitely detailed in the contract.  It sounds to me like No Doubt is just really, really not happy with how their image is being used.

    Oh well.  Next time, read the fine print, think ahead, and play the game first!  ^^;

    "HEY! LISTEN!"

  3. State says:

    I’m surprised Van Halen aren’t suing over the use of their image in Guitar Hero: Van Halen…

    It seems to be that everyone knew what was going to happen but have just seen the opportunity to get a little more money and again it goes near the argument of the influence of games on people, that people will somewho believe a computer simulation to be real and that the result isn’t a quirk of the gameplay but rather a real life situation.

  4. Namaps says:

     I just can’t wait till they release Saxophone Hero and all the complaints are over the the use of Charlie Parker’s likeness.

    One can only dream….

  5. CyberSkull says:

    I find myself siding more with No Doubt in this case than I do with Love in the prior against Activison. With Love’s stewardship of the late Kurt Cobain’s image, I find it difficult to say what Cobain would do in this case. Maybe he wouldn’t care, maybe he would. But in the No Doubt case, they are alive and present and fully able to state their wishes.

    It seems to me that if contracts were written much clearer then issues like these wouldn’t arise. Regardless of the outcome, the buck is going to be passed down in Activision’s legal department over this.


    Full disclosure: I own many albums from both Nirvana and No Doubt.

  6. chadachada321 says:

    Yeah, they freaking suck. But they were the warm-up band for Hollywood Undead (with Haste the Day and Senses Fail, who both had talent unlike Brokencyde), and we were able to push our way to the front while Brokencyde was playing, was front row for HU, fuck yeah.

    -Optimum est pati quod emendare non possis-It is best to endure what you cannot change-

  7. chadachada321 says:

    18 years old, hah. Didn’t know that No Doubt was THAT old. If it had been a few years later I probably would know them more, I can clearly remember what songs were famous when I was 7 years old+, like 1998 and later. Maybe they did make good songs when they were ska-pop, but the only songs I’ve heard in the past like, ever, are shitty pop songs.

    (I’d still say that Fallout Boy is more famous right now, just not as high-selling. And possessing talent) Something slightly related (I’m not trying to disprove you or anything, but it is something that’s true that I just thought of) is that in this day-and-age there are plenty of ways to get the songs without purchasing them, like borrowing a CD and putting it on your computer, getting it off of limewire, etc, which could attribute *very slightly* to why Fallout Boys sales aren’t a little higher.

    My apologies, they were famous before my time, guess that’s why I barely know of them.

    -Optimum est pati quod emendare non possis-It is best to endure what you cannot change-

  8. joystickgenie says:

    Considering you list fallout boy as one of the best I assume you must be very young and probibly too young to listen to nodoubt when they were actualy famous back around 1995 with songs like "Spiderwebs"  "Just a Girl" and "Don’t Speak"  back when they were still a ska-pop band.

    Seriously, in terms of overall fame and sucsess no doubt is much more famous than fallout boy. (no doubts best album selling 16 million copies fallout boy’s best selling album selling about 2 million copies)

    This is, of course, regardless of actual tallent or personal preference.

  9. chadachada321 says:

    Er…No Doubt doesn’t fall under the "music" category, it falls under "talentless noise."

    They may have been "chart-topping" but they sure as hell weren’t popular in any area near me. Almost everyone I know thinks that Gwen is a talentless hack (though she is pretty when she isn’t wearing pounds of makeup and whorish outfits), but most wouldn’t recognize the name "No Doubt," just Gwen Stefani’s name.

    I’ve seen over 30 bands live, ranging from relatively local to the best of the best, from Brokencyde to Fallout Boy. I like music and am interested in it, I like a fair amount of songs from every genre, yet I only remembered who No Doubt was when someone posted Gwen’s name. The band isn’t as common as you might think, lol

    -Optimum est pati quod emendare non possis-It is best to endure what you cannot change-

  10. mentor07825 says:

    I don’t listen to much radio, but I listen to a lot of music. I also live in Ireland, and we don’t get all the bands. 

    Indeed, the court will decide or it’ll be settled outside of the courts. They should read the fine print on these agreements.

    "God, is that you?"

    "No! It’s a me, Mario!"

  11. JDKJ says:

    Well, of course it does. When your social philosophy is obviously based on the principle that those who have the financial ability to satisfy their own needs are all well and good and those who can’t afford to do so are just shit outta luck, then richer does always mean a better person. 

  12. Erik says:

    Because richer always means a better person right? 

    By the way, have you purchased those Kenyan children to carry around your platinum sedan chair yet?

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

  13. Defenestrator says:

    Meh.  "Tragic Kingdom" was a good album, but No Doubt went downhill after that when they abandoned their ska-influenced sound for generic pop tunes.

  14. JDKJ says:

    And how would you know it was me if I was in fact on the cover of everything from Forbes to Playboy? Because all the headlines would scream "Attorney JDKJ Wins Record-Setting $1,000,000,000,000 Judgment!!?"

    God, you’re retarded! 

  15. Austin_Lewis says:

    Because if you had ‘pocketed’ one trillion dollars in a Big Tobacco class action tort, It’d be in Forbes or Reuters or the Economist, and you’d be on the front cover of every newspaper?  

    Is it an assumption?  Yes.  But one I’d be willing to bet on any time.

  16. JDKJ says:

    How do you know that I’m not independently wealthy because my last name is "Duvalier" and I inherited all that money my father and grandfather spirited away from Haiti? Or that I didn’t lead the class action tobacco tort litigation against Big Tobacco and pocket $1,000,000,000,000 in so doing? You don’t. Because, as usual, you don’t know shit.

  17. Austin_Lewis says:

    Let’s see.  Charlie Daniels makes millions a year simply with live performances of his music, not to mention all the money he and his band make from royalties.  Then, let’s talk about the money he makes from endorsements for every from Gibson to the NRA.  What do you get for your services?

    Oh, and once again, I have been exposed to a far broader range of music than yourself.  I don’t know you, but I can nearly guarantee it.  And by ‘broader range’ I don’t mean indy crap.

  18. chadachada321 says:

    Well that’s because White Zombie knows what music is. Sure, they kind of suck, but at least they’re trying instead of bringing the world’s music-talent-quotient (MTQ) down a few points.

    -Optimum est pati quod emendare non possis-It is best to endure what you cannot change-

  19. JDKJ says:

    And you would know so much about my personal worth in comparison to Charlie Daniels’ because you helped prepare my tax returns, right? 

    You fluctuate between the two extremes of: (1) not knowing anything about that which you can and (2) knowing everything about that which you can’t. But regardless of the point to which the pendulum has swung at any given point in time, you’re always a complete idiot.

    And "playing the fool," despite the sound of it, doesn’t qualify as a skill with a musical instrument.

  20. Austin_Lewis says:

    What an intelligent comment.  That really added to the conversation.  The funniest part, however, is I can play instruments you’ve never even heard of, and not just ‘dumb-ass, shit-kicking redneck’ instruments. 

    By the way, how does it feel to know the Charlie Daniels is richer, more popular, and all around a better person than yourself? 

  21. JDKJ says:

    Yeah, you’re thinking of Charlie Daniels. Or Marshall Tucker. Or some other dumb-ass, shit-kicking redneck who makes that noise you call music.

  22. JDKJ says:

    Which would only be true if the ultimate outcome of any lawsuit was directly reflective of the merits of the lawsuit. Which, in my experience, isn’t always true. For any number of reasons having very little to do with the merits, lawsuits are dropped, or dismissed, or settled, or decided unfavorably for either the plaintiff or the defendant. Those outcomes don’t necessarily mean that the plaintiffs or the defendants weren’t raising mertitorious claims.

  23. Krono says:

    That depends on whether Activision settles, or the lawsuits get dropped. If a bunch of artists complain, but get nothing for it, then it just means a bunch of artists weren’t careful about the details of the contract.


  24. DarkSaber says:

    They are ALL greedy bitches.


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

  25. JDKJ says:

    I thought that Courtney Love was making the exact same complaint as No Doubt now makes, which is that while an agreement was reached, Activision has exceeded the scope of permission intended by the agreement in having the likeness perform songs by other artists. I didn’t think that Love said she never signed any agreement of any sort.

    And when the third and fourth such complaints from additional artists are raised, will all the posters who at first accused Love of being a "greedy bitch" change their tune (pun intended) and start accusing Activision of being some greedy bitches?

  26. DarkSaber says:

    They probably didn’t complain because they actually DID give their permission for their likenesses to be used for any song.


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

  27. State says:

    Just because no one like Activision I hardly think that it’s been the case where they have sneakily used the likenesses in this way on purpose. The game has a freedom to let you choose a character and have them play to a song, all the musicians are playable characters. The way the game is structured this just appears to be one of those things that is the result of the way the game was designed.

    It just seems to be that there seems to be easy money to be gained from suing the company, and really what sort of damage has been done to any of the musicians through this?

    Guitar Hero 4 featured Ozzy Osbourne, Sting and others singing and playing to songs not their own, and there weren’t any complaints then.

  28. Lou says:

    So this is like what, the third of fourth artists to complain about the same claim. This is something that should be taken more seriously now. I don’t think this is about greed anymnore. And it looks like Activision is wiping their asses with contracts these days.

  29. Defenestrator says:

    One thing to note is that Harmonix just launched LEGO Rock Band, which has LEGO-ized versions of various famous people (such as Iggy Pop, Queen, etc.).  The difference between what Activision has done and what Harmonix has done is that LEGO Iggy Pop only sings the Iggy Pop song, LEGO Queen only sings the Queen songs, etc.  Even if the contract reads that they can use the likeness for whatever they choose, they’ve held up respect for the artist and their work.

    At this point, Activision can’t exactly say the same.  So unless some music artist is out there and really needs the cash, given all the negative publicity, why would any music artist ever lend their likeness to Activision ever again?

  30. Kabyk says:

    I have not and don’t plan on playing Band Hero. But, from what the article states, the band members can be used in these 62 other songs merely through "Character Manipulation" creation system. I’m familiar with games enough to know that if you can customize an avatar’s face, the game creator has no authority to dictate what the consumer does and cannot be held reliable.

    Practically every single Mii on the Mii Store is a celebrity or known figure. Are they getting royalties? Nope.

    BUT, if this "Character Manipulation" is nothign more than pick and choose people to form a "fantasy band" in the game, then there could be a problem.

  31. Defenestrator says:

    I’m relatively certain No Doubt has never, at any time in their career, sounded remotely like White Zombie.

  32. Austin_Lewis says:

    I think it’s hilarious that they’re trying to grasp for a bit more money as a band.  Back in the day, they were pretty mediocre (kind of reminded me of Garbage and White Zombie (White Cherry?). Now, the last time I can recall them touring was when Gwen lost the ability to sell out a show for a while and got back together with them for a little extra money. 

    Do NONE of these people read a fucking contract?  Have none of these people looked at ANY of the other games?  I’ve played songs using world famous guitarist Slash that feature female singers, but I don’t see Slash (a much more famous and talented musician than ANYONE in No Doubt) bitching that his avatar is being used to play songs he didn’t write and probably wouldn’t play.

  33. E. Zachary Knight says:

    So I take it you don’t listen to much music. Either that or you are one of those just one genre and nothing else types of people.

    No Doubt has been a chart topping band for quite a while. I knew about them before I was even interested in music.

    That said, this could easily be a case of No Doubt’s Manager/Agent not reading the contract or explaining it to the band properly. It could also be a case of Activision trying to pull a fast one on the band members.

    Who knows. It will end up being the court who will decide.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  34. Austin_Lewis says:

    Oh, you’ve probably heard of No Doubt, if only indirectly.  It’s the band that launched that talentless bitch, Gwen Stefani’s, singing career.

    You know, the ‘Hollaback Girl’ with an ego that blocks the sun.


  35. mentor07825 says:

    Sweet jesus, they’re being sued right and left over this game.

    It would help these gobshites of copyright holders to read the bloody fine print on their contracts first off to avoid this sort of shit.

    I’ve never even heard of NoDoubt! They should be lucky then that they’re getting the publicity they much need in this game as it’s doing their job for them!

    While I don’t have any loyalty to Activision, they make good games, I doubt a big company would go against a contract and risk legal punishment unless they knew, without a shadow of doubt, that they are in the right.

    I have more doubts to NoDoubt winning this then I do of Activision.

    Then again, that whole fiasco with Brutal Legend does bring some doubt to Activision.

    Worst case scenerio? Activision settles this outside of court with a settlement.

    "God, is that you?"

    "No! It’s a me, Mario!"

  36. chadachada321 says:

    I suppose I’d have to see the contract’s exact wording to be able to make a formal opinion. Depending on how it was worded, it could very well be Activision illegally using a likeness, or it could just be a bunch of pissed off band members. Really could go either way depending on the wording of the contract.

    -Optimum est pati quod emendare non possis-It is best to endure what you cannot change-

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