The Romantics Sue Activision… For Being Too Good

By John Walker on November 22nd, 2007 at 5:48 pm.

Litigous people can be weird.

Guitar Hero, now officially a PC game and so allowed to be discussed in these here walls, might be in a spot of bother after rock band The Romantics filed a lawsuit, attempting to get the game removed from the shelves.

Poor widdle band

The song, What I Like About You, appears in the series’ blip, Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the ’80s, but peculiarly, this isn’t a case of Activision pinching the song without permission. Obviously they’d not be so daft.

No, instead the Romantics’ attorneys told the Detroit Free Press that it’s because the game contains a cover of the song that sounds too much like the original. “It’s a very good imitation, and that’s our objection. Even the guys in the band said, ‘Wow, that’s not us, but it sure sounds like us.’” Wha?

According to USA Today, Activision sought all the rights they needed to cover the song in the game. But the band are claiming that, “by creating an imitation so much like the Romantics’ original the company has infringed the group’s right to its own image and likeness..” Double wha?

The band are hoping to get an injunction which would mean the game coming off shelves, and presumably have rather large knock-on effects for the entire series if other bands take notice.

It all comes down to not having acquired a “master license” for the song, which would have given them permission to reproduce the song in any way they wished, and indeed pay the additional royalties. Wah wah, you poor, er, rich rock singers. The band’s Wally Palmer bleated, “I was very upset because the band had worked very hard over many years to develop and use its distinctive sound.”

The USA Today spoke to University of Michigan law professor and copyright specialist Jessica Litman, who explained this was different from singers hearing their songs covered without permission by adverts because,

“Here it’s being used as an intrinsic sound in the gameplay. That seems to me to be a loser on state law grounds and trademark grounds, because no one is going to be confused and think that they’re endorsing Playstation or Guitar Hero.”

So watch this, listen to the song (hopefully posted without the band’s permission), open your windows, and sing it out loud to the street without permission. That’ll show ‘em.

Oh, and compare and contrast. How could anyone have managed to recreate such a distinct sound, eh?

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21 Comments »

  1. NM says:

    “I was very upset because the band had worked very hard over many years to develop and use its distinctive sound.”

    Evidently not that hard, if a few session musicians could replicate it precisely for a video game.

    Bill Hicks railed against “artists” who sold out by doing commercials. He decreed they be struck off the artistic roll; I’m extending that Edict to include idiots like these who get precious about their “intewectual pwopwetwee”.

  2. Jives says:

    The odd thing is, it realy doesn’t sound very similar…

  3. Monkfish says:

    Litigation : the rock star’s contemporary replacement for the activity of smashing up hotel rooms.

  4. The_B says:

    Wow, who knew that their “distinctive sound” could be replicated by PEOPLE WHO PLAY MUSIC eh? Never saw that one coming…

  5. Tr00jg says:

    Douchebags… It IS suppose to sounds like “The Romantics”… and seriously what kind of a name is that anyway?

  6. Lorc says:

    It’s being invoked so often nowadays that I think the word “infringed” is losing all meaning to me.
    Stop ruining good words!

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    Not to be mean, but has anyone here actually even heard of the Romantics?

    KG

  8. Dan (WR) says:

    “Not to be mean, but has anyone here actually even heard of the Romantics?”

    Nope. Which makes this all the more ridiculous.

    If it sounds so much like them, i’ts not infringing their moral rights by distorting or misrepresenting their music.

    And it’s not infringing their economic rights – people aren’t going to avoid buying Romantics albums because they have access to a single song on a videogame. It’s far more likely (well… if people are sick in the head) that the game song will act as an advertisement for their music.

    Of course, an even better way to advertise themselves is to start a jumped-up lawsuit so that people take a listen to what they’re like and hear what the fuss is about…

  9. John Walker says:

    How is people’s knowledge of the band in any way relevant to this?

  10. Crispy says:

    Dunno, sounds like something about moral high ground and ‘we’re a much of teeny boppers’ and ‘in my dayery’.

    I haven’t heard of the Romantics, but because of the game they’re trying to get taken off the shelves I have, and I like the music. So, essentially, they are fighting to have their pensioners savings diminished by aborting any Guitar Hero-related Romantics music sales while they’re still in the metaphorical womb.

    Hopefully the Alzheimers will set in before they do themselves a disservice.

  11. Robert says:

    What did they expect when they allowed Activision to procude a cover? A reggae-style reproduction with opera singers?

    And the Guitar Hero version isn’t even that close to the band’s unique, distinctive sound.

  12. Robert says:

    Okay, double-posting is really bad, I know and apologize. But I can’t leave that “procude” typo uncommented. It should have been “produced”, obviously.

  13. The_B says:

    How is people’s knowledge of the band in any way relevant to this?

    In Kieron’s defence, surely their whole case is based around the fact they supposedly have a “distinctive” sound, so whenever that is heard, people think of that band? They’ve kinda failed if you don’t know who they are even after hearing their “distinctive sound”, or something…

  14. Rob K-L says:

    Their whole case has nothing whatsoever to do with their “Distinctive sound”. That is simply the argument that they are bringing to the table, but it is not really important to what they are trying to do.

    It is a bunch of has been nobodies trying to get a slice of the cake by bullying it out of the game publishers with litigation.

    They are hoping that they will get handed a settlement cheque because the case will not be worth fighting.

    Cuntish behaviour by any standard.

  15. Schadenfreude says:

    I know back in the day Tom Waits sued Frito-Lay for getting an imitator in to do a version of Step Right Up for one of their commercials (Actually he sued Opel in 2005 for the same reason) but that’s advertising, not Guitar Hero. What did these guys think was going to happen when they signed the rights over?

  16. Rook says:

    After thinking about this, I think Romantics probably have a stronger case than people think. Midler vs Ford saw Midler win, and the phrase “as made famous by” isn’t exactly obvious to people.

    Further more, depending on the rights that Activision etc have on the song, a near identicle cover of a very popular song couold be a very lucrative cashcow if they’re able to sell it as a download, or license the cover to other media projects.

  17. The_B says:

    Their whole case has nothing whatsoever to do with their “Distinctive sound”. That is simply the argument that they are bringing to the table, but it is not really important to what they are trying to do.

    OK, well I meant that their case rests on that argument then. :P

  18. Tom Lillis says:

    Further more, depending on the rights that Activision etc have on the song, a near identicle cover of a very popular song couold be a very lucrative cashcow if they’re able to sell it as a download, or license the cover to other media projects.

    I don’t think Midler v. Ford carries over. My (very brief) reading of the ruling suggests to me that the problem was that the impression was used to create the false impression of an endorsement. The ruling pretty clearly states that a voice is NOT protected by copyright; I would imagine that something as ephemeral as a “style” would then be considered protected.

  19. jph wacheski says:

    Well I think most of you are missing the point here,. music rights are goofy to be sure, but my understanding of this case is that they got paid for the ‘song’, that is the music and the lyrics to be used in the game,. the problem the band, or their lawyer, has it that the cover is a sound-a-like of the bands ‘performance’ and if the company wanted the performance they should have payed for that,. and used it,. by paying only for the music and lyric rights (I assume a bunch less $$) and then producing a ‘sound-a-like’ version they cheated the band out of that money,. sure you can quibble that is a bit nit-picky,. however its like you going to work and not getting payed for it,. would you like that?
    And yes I am quite fermiliar with the Romantics haveing grown up on Detroit rock radio,. where they where from and quite popular,. I dubt they are ‘rich’ rock stars, bet they have jobs and all,. . the point to me is if the game developers liked the song er ‘performace’ enouph to base their gameplay around it then sure pay the pipers,. or let them try to pry some cash from the big rich corporations fat pockets.
    Peace.

  20. Rob K-L says:

    “however its like you going to work and not getting payed for it”

    To me it seems more like you not going to work, someone doing your job for you, and you not getting paid for it. Which is fair enough in my eyes.

  21. peterq9 says:

    Lol “This video has been removed due to terms of use violation”

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