It has been a “Hella Good” month for Gwen Stefani and her band No Doubt. The group announced they were reuniting and won a major victory in a right of publicity lawsuit against video game maker Activision. The lawsuit involves how No Doubt’s likeness was used in the popular game "Band Hero."
No Doubt did authorize Activision to use each band members’ likeness in the video game, but alleges that the game maker exceeded the terms of their contractual agreement. Its entertainment lawsuit includes claims for fraud, violation of publicity rights, and breach of contract.
Rather than allowing users to use the band member’s avatars to sing the three songs approved by the band, the lawsuit claims that their likenesses are featured in over 60 songs, many of which were originally performed by other artists. For instance, the lawsuit alleges that users could use singer Gwen Stefani to perform suggestive lyrics from the Rolling Stones' hit "Honky Tonk Women," or have a bassist Tony Kanal sing his band's hit "Just a Girl," but with Stefani's voice.
As reported by NorthJersey.com, the lawsuit contends that the video game “transformed No Doubt band members into a virtual karaoke circus act” and “the Character Manipulation Feature results in an unauthorized performance by the Gwen Stefani avatar in a male voice boasting about having sex with prostitutes.”
Meanwhile, Activision argues that the idea of "unlocking" unadvertised features of a video game is common industry practice and the company did nothing wrong. As such, this case highlights that individuals seeking to restrict the use of their likeness should clearly specify which uses are permitted in the terms of the contract.
Rights of publicity and rights to privacy are often the subject of entertainment transactions. Please consult a knowledgeable entertainment attorney if you have issues involving this area of law.