ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Guitar Hero, Nirvana, (Giving) Love (a Bad Name), and Contract Law

Guitar Hero.  I've never understood the fascination, but I do have a number of friends who've purchased it "for the kids."  (Which, I must assume, is why one new iteration features the Beatles).

Apparently the new version of the game also has Curt Kobain as a character, and his Nirvana bandmates and wife Courtney Love aren't happy.  Love took her disappointment to Twitter and laid the groundwork for the lawsuit in < 140 characters:

For the record this Guitar Hero s--t 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 s--t out of ACtivision we being the Trust the Estate the LLC the various LLCs Cobain Enterprises.

Love's attorney issued a statement, clarifying that the claimed breach of contract was the use of Cobain to sing songs of other artists:

Ms. Cobain is extremely upset about Activision's use of Mr. Cobain's likeness to sing the songs of others in its Guitar Hero game. . .. Activision was granted permission by Kurt's trust solely to use his name and likeness. Activision was not given an unbridled right to use Mr. Cobain's name and likeness. Kurt's songs have a special and unique meaning to his fans and his image and legacy are very important to Ms. Cobain.

The agreement Activision has with the trust doesn't allow them to use his likeness in ways that denigrate his image. We would hope Activision would do the right thing on its own and prohibit game users from using Kurt's image to sing others songs and if they don't we expect the trust to take appropriate action to protect Mr. Cobain's image.

Well, that presents an interesting question of contract interpretation: Does it "denigrate" Cobain's image to "belt[] out Flavor Flav ad-libs, Dave Mustaine giggle-rants, Billy Idol come-ons, and Jon Bon Jovi exhortations" -- including, "You Give Love a Bad Name" (and there's no small irony in that lyric)?  You be the judge:

Bon Jovi is the latest to comment, telling the BBC that he declined an offer to be part of the Guitar Hero series:

To hear someone else's voice coming out of a cartoon version of me? I don't know. It sounds a little forced...I had the paperwork, they wanted me to be on that game and I just passed...But no-one even broached the subject with me that I would be singing other people's stuff. I don't know how I would have reacted to that. I don't know that I would have wanted it either.

[Meredith R. Miller]

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I too dont understand the draw to guitar hero. I think it is due ot the fact that a guitar is such an awesome instrument, but very difficult to play. People cannot put in the effort necessary to learn, so they just play it on a video game instead.


Posted by: Eric | Dec 8, 2009 8:05:18 PM

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