As the video game “Guitar Hero” is smashing sales records in its third incarnation, the Detroit ’80s rockers The Romantics have sued the game’s maker for stealing their song with permission.
Sure, this sounds confusing, and that is only the beginning. The band allowed Activision to record a sound-a-like version of their hit “What I Like About You” and the problem arrived when the game came out and it song sounded a little too much like the original.
The lawsuit threatens to pull the game off the shelves in time for the holiday season in potentially a huge financial blow to “Guitar Hero.” The latest game in the “Guitar Hero” game series is their “Rocks the ’80s” version and The Romantics, much like the other 29 bands featured on the game, signed agreements for the game manufacturer to record versions of their songs.
Where The Romantics problems arise is that while playing the game, members of the band noticed that the song differed in almost no ways and therefore, became a full representation of the band “endorsing” the game. Precedence on this case goes to two previous lawsuits. One, by Bette Midler and the other by Tom Waits, both involved commercials airing on television that used sound-a-likes that were each judged to be too close to the original and the artists won the lawsuits.
The difference here is that the court will have to decide if there is a difference between being connected to a product via advertising versus a video game where both were done with permission. For now, it appears The Romantics can’t find much to like about “Guitar Hero.”