Fashion icon Gwen Stefani and her band No Doubt have settled a lawsuit with video game giant Activision over a breach of the group’s publicity rights. No Doubt had signed a contract with Activision permitting the use of their image and songs in the game ‘Band Hero’. However, when the game was released, users were able to allow Stefani’s character and those of her band mates to sing the songs of other musicians. According to reports, Stefani took particular exception to the ability players had to have her character sing the Rolling Stones song ‘Honky Tonk Woman’. Stefani claimed not to have given authorization to have her character boast about having sex with prostitutes.
The right of publicity gives the right to control the commercial use of one’s image. The right has been recognized in a number of US states since the 1950′s and is mostly envoked by celebrities who find their likeness used to promote goods and services without their permission. Interestingly, the right doesn’t exist in England or Ireland . Celebrities must instead make use of alternative legal doctrines when seeking to protect their image in those countries.
No Doubt stated that BandHero had turned them into ‘a virtual karaoke act’. A number of other musicians, including Jon Bon Jovi and Krist Novoselic, have in the past objected to the feauture allowing their characters to sing songs of other musicians, but none have taken legal action to put a stop to it. Had Activision allowed this case to go to court and subsequently lost, the floodgates would have opened for other artists to bring similar claims. The details of the settlement have not been disclosed.