A few months ago, there was a bit of a flap over the use of Kurt Cobain's likeness in the video game "Guitar Hero 5." Specifically, fans, former bandmates and Courtney Love were all bothered by the fact that you could manipulate the game to make the Nirvana frontman's avatar sing songs by Bon Jovi and Bush. The just-released "Band Hero" has come under similar fire, this time from Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. The band's virtual selves are included in the game, and just as with Cobain, players can program Stefani's character to sing songs that don't belong to No Doubt. And once again, the problem the band has is with the types of material that can be put into Stefani's mouth.
The song in question? The Rolling Stones' 1969 hit "Honky Tonk Women." The formal complaint filed by the band states, "While No Doubt are avid fans of the Rolling Stones and even have performed in concerts with the Rolling Stones, the Character Manipulation Feature results in an unauthorized performance by the Gwen Stefani avatar in a male voice boasting about having sex with prostitutes."
Activision, the company behind both "Guitar Hero 5" and "Band Hero," said in a statement, "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 most interesting thing about both of these suits isn't so much that the avatars can be forced to sing other people's music, but that it's the specific songs involved that seem to set people off. Stefani's camp is bugged by the lyrical content of "Honky Tonk Women," while the Cobain complaint was based around the fact that it was insulting for the Nirvana singer to be performing songs from bands who ripped him off. As video games become a bigger share of the music market, the issue of artist control will most certainly become a bigger deal as time goes on. The resolution of both of these suits will be important to the future of a very lucrative corner of the industry.