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The Romantics Sue Activision... For Being Too Good

Poor widdle band

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.

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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John Walker

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One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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