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Guitar Hero Maker Sued - Cover Song Too Awesome

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the harshing-your-groove dept.

Music 190

volpone writes "The band "The Romantics" are suing Activision over their wedding reception favorite, 'What I Like About You,' which appears in Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the '80s. The problem is not copyright infringement; Activision had permission to make a cover version of the song. No, the problem is that the cover sounds too much like the original. 'The band's attorneys have indicated that they are seeking an injunction that would force the game to be withdrawn from sale. Although around half of the songs in the newly released Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock feature recordings by the original artists, in previous Guitar Hero games the majority of songs were cover versions.'" In not totally-unrelated news you can download the Mjolnir mix of the Halo theme for play on GHIII, free, today.

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Of course they did... (5, Funny)

hsdpa (1049926) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450245)

By taking the Fourier-transform of the song, and then the Inverse Fourier-Transform, you're making a cover. A remix by most - but not a plagiate.

Re:Of course they did... (4, Funny)

cacepi (100373) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450295)

By taking the Fourier-transform of the song, and then the Inverse Fourier-Transform, you're making a cover. A remix by most - but not a plagiate.
Dude, this is Guitar Hero; speak English for Christ's sake!

Re:Of course they did... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21450343)

Actually, I think it was supposed to be funny, if you know a bit math.

Re:Of course they did... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21450419)

"Dude, this is Guitar Hero; speak English for Christ's sake!"

"Slashdot, New for nerds and stuff that matters".

Okay, so you failed at math and you are visiting the wrong site. Double-whammy.

RAY DAVIES (3, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450577)

The bloody Kinks oughta sue the Romantics, in such a world! "What I Like About You" is pretty much an early Kinks pastiche. Fits right in with "'Till the End of the Day", "All Day and All of the Night", "You Really Got Me" and "Stop Your Sobbin'".

Maybe what's left of the Yardbirds can get in the act, too! That "Hey!" in the song comes right out of "Over, Under, Sideways, Down".

Come to think of it, that last song is just "Rock Around the Clock" with some awesome guitar work by Jeff Beck. Oh!

Fuggeddiboutit.

3-chord covers (5, Insightful)

weighn (578357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450689)

"What I Like About You" is pretty much an early Kinks pastiche.

Ditto Gloria and a million songs that go E-A-D.

According to TFA, the attorneys say that publishing an accurate cover is "infringing on the group's rights to its own likeness".

FFS, we are talking about a 3-chord riff that a child could master in 10 minutes.

can someone explain to them the purpose of a cover song? I hardly think that the makers of GH would want re-interpretations of original songs on their product.

Re:3-chord covers (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450807)

What makes "Gloria" - and all the aforementioned 3-Chorders so great, is the delivery and presence of their presentation.

Van Morrison in '64? Geez! How could this Belfast leprechaun do that?

Re:3-chord covers (1)

bigjarom (950328) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451001)

can someone explain to them the purpose of a cover song?
A cover song's purpose is to get a band noticed via a recognizable tune, so they can then peddle their own original crappy songs immediately afterwards. It rarely works though. It DID work for Van Halen with "You Really Got Me." In the context of GH3 though, who cares? It's a video game.

Re:3-chord covers (1)

Beastmouth (1144447) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451099)

Maybe if y're in a shit band, I guess.

Re:3-chord covers (5, Insightful)

shark72 (702619) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451619)

"can someone explain to them the purpose of a cover song? I hardly think that the makers of GH would want re-interpretations of original songs on their product."

Sorry -- there's precedent here. If you deliberately do a cover that sounds too much like the original as to cause confusion, you're likely to be sued. Maybe this is one of those cases where the rest of the world really needs a good explainin' from the Slashdot populace, but nonetheless, this is how the rest of the world works for the time being.

For those of you with Westlaw, look up Midler v. Ford Motor Company. Ford hired one of Bette Midler's background singers to do an exact copy of Midler's vocal style on a cover of one of her songs ("Do You Want To Dance") for an ad for the Mercury Sable. They did this because it was cheaper than hiring Midler, so they set out to attempt to confuse the audience. It worked -- I knew people who swore that it was the Bette Midler version. Midler sued; Ford lost.

What the makers of GH want has absolutely no bearing here. What matters is what they are legally entitled to get. If you don't want to pay up to use the original recording, you don't get to record a soundalike. To avoid being sued, you do a re-interpretation, no matter how much you want something that sounds just like the original article, without having to pay for it.

This is little band vs. big corporation here. I can't believe that some people think it should be simple as "explaining" to the band that they have no case because the big company wanted an exact copy of their song, but didn't want to pay for the privelege. Big companies should not have the ability to trample the little guy's rights simply because they "want" something. Sure, it happens enough... but why are Slashdotters suddenly supporting this notion?

Re:RAY DAVIES (2, Funny)

mfnickster (182520) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450827)

The bloody Kinks oughta sue the Romantics, in such a world! "What I Like About You" is pretty much an early Kinks pastiche.

The Kinks oughta sue themselves for plagiarism. "Paranoia" is essentially the same song as "All Day and All of the Night." :)

Re:Of course they did... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21450805)

Well, I've got NEWS for you Dr. AC..

Re:Of course they did... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21451163)

i totally agree, i read slash a lot, but this is the first time i felt the need to comment, and I actually joined just do it.... fourier not english?? first thing you learn in any diffy's class or signals class

Re:Of course they did... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21451455)

Actually, "plagiate" [reference.com] isn't English but rather Italian [wiktionary.org] .

Give Thanks Today For The Slaughter Of The Pequot (-1, Offtopic)

Kiaser Wilhelm II (902309) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450261)

Give Thanks Today For The Slaughter Of The Pequot
The True Story Of Thanksgiving

History -- Thanksgiving was founded by white people in 1637 not to celebrate peace between the settlers and Indians, but was proclaimed by Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop to give thanks for the massacre of 3,000 Pequot Indians, the last remnants of a tribe who had brutalized, tortured and raped white settlers.

When whites first settled in the Hudson River Valley, the Pequot, a part of the Algonquin, whose name, in the Algonquin language, meant "destroyers", began trading with the Dutch, but demanded that they be given a trade monopoly, and that all goods the Dutch wanted to sell to any Injun be first sold to them for resale. The Dutch refused and took a hostage, which was killed, and the end result was a war in which the Pequot slaughtered their neighboring Algonquins, the Metuoc, in order to prevent the Dutch from trading with them directly.

When the English settled Massachusetts, they refused to obey the trade agreements made by the Dutch, and the Pequot declared war. They attacked English settlements and slaughtered English citizens. The English retaliated, and fought a four year long war which ended in the slaughter of most of the Pequon males, and the transfer of the remaining Pequon women and children to Bermuda. The first Thanksgiving celebrated this defeat.

Now, in modern times, a group of mostly white people who claim partial Pequon descent, such as tribal leader Michael Thomas, operate casinos and sell tax-free trinkets under special protection of local law, claiming protection as members of a federal Indian reservation.

But the Jews and their communist allies among the Injuns changed the story of Thanksgiving in the last century, making it a multiculturalist holiday, and saying that it celebrated the unity of white men with the peaceful Injuns who gave them food -- ignoring the vicious trade tactics of the Pequon, their slaughter of their own racial kinsmen for profit, and their defeat and subsequent slaughter by the English.

Now, the Jews and Injuns want to end the holiday altogether, and focus instead on psychologically attacking whites by making them feel bad for what they did in defending themselves and their people from a hostile, profit- motivated racial enemy.

White people sould stand up to the Jews and communist Injuns and tell them that it was their people who started the Indian wars, their people who started the race war with white settlers, and their people who got exactly what they deserved for their centuries long history of brutality, rape and murder. And the Jews who lead and instigate this hatred should be shunned by all polite white society, their books burned, their ideas driven out, and their conversation and company barred from any hearing.

Today we give thanks for the first of the white racial victories over the Indian -- victories that led to the total domination and near extermination of their race, and the ability of white people to live -- until the coming of Jewish "civil rights" -- anywhere on this continent, in peace, without fear of being suddenly murdered, raped or tortured by bands of marauding racial enemies.

Re:Give Thanks Today For The Slaughter Of The Pequ (-1, Offtopic)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450381)

Wasn't old Kaiser Willie the imbecile who started world war I with no hope of winning and then abdicated when defeat was at hand? What a glorious hero.

Re:Give Thanks Today For The Slaughter Of The Pequ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21450451)

Wilhelm had no control. He had little real control at the start and by the midpoint the army operated itself without any influence from him, through to the end of the war.

Re:Give Thanks Today For The Slaughter Of The Pequ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21450649)

No, I'm just an internet troll, hence the different spelling.

Re:Give Thanks Today For The Slaughter Of The Pequ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21450723)

...the last remnants of a tribe who had brutalized, tortured and raped white settlers...
... in retaliation for the brutalization, torture, rape, murder, poisoning, theft and disease inflicted upon themselves.

And on and on it goes. Funny world, innit?

Nice Try (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21451075)

This was actually an unprovoked attack.

Can we say losers? (0, Redundant)

sproketboy (608031) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450267)

Yes - we can say that.

Wow, just wow. (4, Funny)

base3 (539820) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450283)

A washed-up 80's band with two hits to its name sues because a cover band was able to duplicate their syrupy bubble-gum pop sound. The mind boggles.

Re:Wow, just wow. (1)

aplusjimages (939458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450707)

I'm impressed they have a good lawyer. Guitar Hero must really bringing in the money for them.

Re:Wow, just wow. (4, Informative)

weighn (578357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450733)

A washed-up 80's band with two hits to its name...
For those playing at home, the other "hit" was Talking In Your Sleep in 1983. I'd hum a bar for you, but it can't have been too memorable.

Re:Wow, just wow. (1)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451013)

Wait...they sang "I hear the secrets that you keep, when you're talking in your sleep"? Oh man...I hope they lose it all in this suit (I kid, I kid...I actually enjoyed both their songs...no please, don't burst my bubble and claim they had other songs...I refuse to believe that)

Re:Wow, just wow. (1)

vapspwi (634069) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451015)

Actually, they had one other pretty decent single that cracked the top 40, "One In A Million" in 1983.

Looking at Wikipedia, "Talking In Your Sleep" was actually their biggest song peaking at #3, followed by "One In A Million" at #37, and "What I Like About You" at #49.

I honestly can't say that I knew that the version of the song in Guitar Hero was a cover, so it must be a pretty accurate rendition. But it's been a while since I played it, and it was one of the songs that gave me the most trouble, so I was generally concentrating more on playing the song than on listening to it.

JRjr

Re:Wow, just wow. (5, Funny)

Wildcat J (552122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451131)

I heard a funny story about them, which may or may not be true:

The Romantics played here in Tucson a few years back for a local festival-type show (either "Nightmare on Congress" or "Fall Crawl"--mostly local bands, including one I played in at the time), and a fairly well-known local band let them rehearse in their practice space. Someone walking through the hallway heard them and commented that it sounded like a really crappy Romantics cover band. If only they knew!

Too simple a song perhaps? (5, Interesting)

mgkimsal2 (200677) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450321)

It's a pretty darn easy song (many popular songs are) so I'm not surprised to find that it's very 'close to the original'. If they had proper permission to include a 'cover' of it, what did they expect? I love the song, and am a sucker for bubblegum/powerpop type stuff, so perhaps that's why I can't see the problem with the cover here. Won't it potentially drive some more sales for their other stuff from people who learn about them through the game? Or perhaps it's because it's so close people won't bother going to buy the original or other Romantics tunes?

Re:Too simple a song perhaps? (5, Insightful)

BronsCon (927697) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450377)

Who cares. Presumably, "have permission" means "paid for permission", which, in turn, most likely means "pays royalties on every copy sold", which translates directly to "the label is being paid", which we all know really means "the artist isn't seeing a penny from the label", which means...

Oh. Right. In that case...

Re:Too simple a song perhaps? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450669)

Perhaps they should sue themselves then for signing away their rights for unfair compensation.

Re:Too simple a song perhaps? (1)

weighn (578357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450775)

Perhaps they should sue themselves...
now there's a plan
  1. sign dodgy contract - Sony is always a good agent for this
  2. write one-hit-wonder - having your label buy a load of copies helps at this stage
  3. sue yourself
  4. ...
  5. profit

Re:Too simple a song perhaps? (2, Insightful)

ThisIsForReal (897233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450913)

Yeah, the lawyers will tell you the last step is profit, but the small print will read (for the lawyers).

Re:Too simple a song perhaps? (5, Informative)

Jay L (74152) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450767)

Presumably, "have permission" means "paid for permission", which, in turn, most likely means "pays royalties on every copy sold", which translates directly to "the label is being paid", which we all know really means "the artist isn't seeing a penny from the label", which means...

Not necessarily. I studied this for an entire semester, but I've apparently blocked it all out.

There are a bunch of different kinds of music "rights" - around six or seven basic ones, IIRC.

The important distinction here is between the rights to the song - the melody, chord changes, lyrics - and the rights to the recording. We don't care about the recording here, because we're making a new one.

The song isn't owned by the record company (again IIRC). Whether it's owned by the publisher, or the composer, or various artist's collectives, I couldn't tell you anymore. And, of course, sometimes the publisher is the label; a lot of times, the publisher is the songwriter (who may or may not be the artist).

Some of these rights are compulsory - that is, in lieu of actually negotiating individual agreements, the licensing fees are just declared by law or regulation, and you've implicitly agreed to them by copyrighting something. Some are in theory not compulsory, but are in practice always negotiated by the same group at the same rates (e.g. the Harry Fox Agency). Some are covered by international conventions, some aren't. And so on.

So without seeing the actual contract The Romantics signed, it'd be hard to say if they got money out of Activision's existing license. (Even seeing the contract might not clear it up; naturally, everyone involved is trying to get more than their share, and sometimes that means writing contracts that confuse artists, if you catch my drift.)

And, of course, when the song was written originally, the concept of "videogame rights" was nonexistent, so who knows what part of their contract would cover it now...

Re:Too simple a song perhaps? (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451251)

Actually, I think we do care about the rights to the recording, since their objection is that Harmonic's recording of their song sounds too much like theirs, even though they apparently paid for the rights to make a new recording of it. I think the best we can really say about this mess is that making music records is like making sausage.

Re:Too simple a song perhaps? (1)

DannyO152 (544940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451533)

Wasn't there a standard clause about unknown future media in the publishing agreements back in the 80s? I seem to remember seeing that in the boilerplates shown in the "Business of Music" books. Plus, video games were around in the mid-80s. In answer to your question, I'm sure that the songwriters and their publishers are getting money for the song's use. It is a derivative work. Not that I'm a lawyer, etc.

As I understand it, arrangement is not copyrightable. And what is the "sound" any way except a combination of instruments, amplifiers, effects, and tape? What? Some engineer at Morley gets the copyright on all wah guitar recordings? And I thought the Californication suit was about as dumb as it gets.

Re:Too simple a song perhaps? (4, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451053)

It doesn't have to be 'paid for every copy sold'. Activision and "The Romantics" agreed on a contract. For a sum of money based on a pre-agreed formula, the company was allowed to do a cover song for the game. This sort of stuff is pretty standard, maybe not for a game, but for things like movies, karaoke, remixes, etc...

If I was judge over this case, one of the first things I'd ask if there was some stipulation in the contract as to the quality of the song. If it's not in the contract and they waited until it came out, didn't insist on having editorial control in the contract, too bad.

Normally, I'd support the band against the big company, but in this case it simply sounds like the band is trying to shake the company down for more money. You see, if they asked for too much money in the beginning, Activision would have simply not included that song and gone for a different one.

However, they know that once the game has been produced, the discs pressed and shipped to stores, that it's too late to pull the song without massive expense. So they come up with some bullshit excuse like 'the cover song is too good so it violates our copyright/trademark' I mean 'rights to it's own likeness' is NOT a protected right. They're probably hoping for a out of court settlement.

Personally, if this is the case I hope they get squashed and end up burning what they were paid to have their song in the game to pay their and Activision's lawyers. Of course all this is a reaction based on the story. I reserve the right to change my views if further information turns up that changes the situation.

This is little different than the old scam of finding some reason to sue a company(mental suffering was popular), then carefully asking for a settlement that would be less than what court costs to successfully fight it would be. Many businesses folded, paying to satisfy the accountants until it was pointed out that it was cheaper to fight 1 of these cases than to pay a hundred, which was the case. It's an old principle - you pay the Danegeld, you never got rid of the Dane.

Re:Too simple a song perhaps? (2, Interesting)

shark72 (702619) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451655)

"Who cares. Presumably, "have permission" means "paid for permission", which, in turn, most likely means "pays royalties on every copy sold", which translates directly to "the label is being paid", which we all know really means "the artist isn't seeing a penny from the label", which means..."

Huh? We're talking about publishing rights here. Publishing rights typically don't go through the label. If you record a cover version, you're dealing with an entirely different set of people; often the composer and lyricist themselves Record companies, on the other hand, deal with distribution of recordings. This is exactly why TFS started out by mentioning that The Romantics are suing Activision, and not the record company.

Misinformation like yours is dangerous because we're supposed to be supporting the artists. Publishing rights for cover versions and the like are a great way for bands to make money without having to share any of it with the record label. This is a GOOD thing. You are trying to trivialize this very important right by spreading the falsehood that this is in the domain of the record label.

Re:Too simple a song perhaps? (1)

shark72 (702619) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451711)

Sorry, another reply to the same post. This is from the Detroit Free Press writeup:

Horton said Activision should have secured a master license for the Romantics' original 1980 recording, then paid appropriate royalties. He said the band became aware of the issue when fans said they'd heard the song in the game but members saw no accounting for it on their record-label royalty checks.

What do you make of the band members' claim that they get record-label royalty checks, when (as you wrote it) "we all know" the band doesn't get royalties? Do you think the band members are lying about receiving royalty checks, in an efforts to build a case for the suit?

Re:Too simple a song perhaps? (3, Interesting)

Osty (16825) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450475)

Won't it potentially drive some more sales for their other stuff from people who learn about them through the game? Or perhaps it's because it's so close people won't bother going to buy the original or other Romantics tunes?

Guitar Hero III is actually driving online sales [kotaku.com] of songs in the game, though the effect is not so clear on physical album sales. I would expect that even cover songs drive sales, with better covers driving even more sales. Assuming the Romantics have songs available on various online music sites (iTunes, Zune, Rhapsody, etc), and assuming that they still see some royalties from the sale of their songs, this seems like a very stupid move.

Then again, we are talking about GH: Rock the 80s, a lack-luster stand-alone GH game that's only available on the PS2 and has been on the market for a while. It may not longer be driving online sales, so this is a final effort to squeeze a little bit more money out of the license.

Re:Too simple a song perhaps? (4, Informative)

The Evil Couch (621105) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450607)

It's a pretty darn easy song

Indeed. [azchords.com] For those of you more familiar with Guitar Hero than sheet music or guitar tabs, this song basically goes like this: green, pause, green, pause, green, red, red, pause, red, yellow, repeat. Except it's really that easy IN REAL LIFE.

Re:Too simple a song perhaps? (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451139)

For me, at least, a lot of the songs in Guitar Hero are easier in real life than in Guitar Hero!

WTF did they expect? (5, Insightful)

TibbonZero (571809) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450361)

Have they been living under a rock? Everyone knows what Guitar Hero is! I've never heard of someone doing a cover song, "Too close" without sampling being sued like this.
If Activision or Harmonix came to me and was like, "Hey, we are going to do a cover of your song for GH/RB" I'd have a pretty damn good idea of what they are doing. It's not going to be a Salsa cover of a rock song, but a pretty damn close cover with at best some parts adapted to fit the game better!

Really, i mean what did they expect?
morons.

Re:WTF did they expect? (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450413)

If Activision or Harmonix came to me and was like, "Hey, we are going to do a cover of your song for GH/RB" I'd have a pretty damn good idea of what they are doing. It's not going to be a Salsa cover of a rock song, but a pretty damn close cover with at best some parts adapted to fit the game better!

I don't know about that. They did do a metal cover of The Devil Went Down to Georgia for the GH3 finale :).

Re:WTF did they expect? (1)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450749)

I don't know about that. They did do a metal cover of The Devil Went Down to Georgia for the GH3 finale :).
Unless I'm remembering something that never happened that metal version's been around for a while, I'm pretty sure I heard it on the radio more than once. It's not a particularly good song (and I like metal, and The Devil Went Down to Georgia) but I don't think GHIII made it up.

'Course I don't have the game so it could be a different metal version, but I'm pretty sure I've heard a version of that song that could be considered metal on the radio before.

Re:WTF did they expect? (1)

basic0 (182925) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451067)

I believe it was Primus who covered the song on "Miscellaneous Debris", which was their album of mostly cover songs, including Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar" and XTC's "Making Plans for Nigel". I have no idea why I remember THAT, but have forgotten most of the stuff I learned in college. Anyways, the version in GH3 is not Primus. I know, because I almost threw the controller at my TV the other night trying unsuccessfully to beat it on medium.

In response to the OP, even if The Romantics didn't know what Guitar Hero was, you'd think they'd find out before granting the rights to Red Octane/Activision/Whoever.

Re:WTF did they expect? (5, Interesting)

Ipkat (1193023) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450447)

Actually, the copyright to the song (i.e., the score) and the copyright to their recording of it are two separate things. It's likely they just didn't own the copyright in the score, and whoever did happily licensed it away to Activision. This reminds me of the strange case of Tom Waits v. Frito Lay, in which old Tom was awarded $6 million for "misappropriation of personality" after Frito Lay hired a Waits impersonator to sing in a commercial. You Americans and your crazy IP laws!

Re:WTF did they expect? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450483)

'Tom was awarded $6 million for "misappropriation of personality"'

Yeah, one morning he woke up to find his personality gone and that's why he sued.

Maybe this band sued because the cover version was better than they'll ever be able to do, and they just couldn't accept that.

Re:WTF did they expect? (2, Insightful)

Enoxice (993945) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450581)

What you didn't mention is that Tom had previously declined their offer to use a song of his ("Step Right Up", off of Small Change, for those that care). Frito-Lay turned around and hired an impersonator to sing a jingle similar to the song.

The difference here is that they had permission from the band to make a cover, they made a cover, and now the band is pissed for no legally-justifiable reason. Also, Tom Waits is 10 million times as awesome as The Romantics.

And John Fogherty! (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450633)

HE was sued by his old producer - who claimed he plagiarized himself!!!

And less auspiciously: the same was claimed of Nickleback [npr.org] ...

If true, poor move by the band (5, Insightful)

eebra82 (907996) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450395)

The band's attorneys have indicated that they are seeking an injunction that would force the game to be withdrawn from sale.
If true, what on earth could have triggered them to ask their lawyers for such a ridiculous action? Clearly, no one is a winner if "the Romantics" win over Activision in court:

- Activision will lose a lot of cash on all the disks that must be reprinted.
- Fans of the title will be furious if they have to wait for weeks.
- The band will be perceived as greedy and ignorant to their own fans who wait for this title with great anticipation.

If anything, they should ask Activision for money. Maybe I am ignorant or just unaware of some fundamentals here, but at least if I was an artist, I would have allowed this. Maybe I'd had been bothered but I would certainly try not to make an ass out of myself in front of my fans.

Re:If true, poor move by the band (4, Insightful)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450443)

If true, what on earth could have triggered them to ask their lawyers for such a ridiculous action? Clearly, no one is a winner if "the Romantics" win over Activision in court:

presumabley they're trying the "sue for the world, settle out of court for what they really want" tactic.

either that or they're certifiably nuts, which is always a distinct possibility.

Re:If true, poor move by the band (1)

encoderer (1060616) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450477)

Or maybe it's all just for publicity.

Romantics History (5, Interesting)

bmo (77928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450665)

"presumabley they're trying the "sue for the world, settle out of court for what they really want" tactic."

It's not that. It's "We never got a dime for this shit when it was popular, but now that we have our own stuff back, we'd like to have our contracts followed, thanks"

They got screwed over by Joel Zuckerman and Arnie Tencer and never saw a dime for "What I like about you" when it was popular. All those Molson and Budweiser commercials? Nothing. Zero, zilch. They had to tour for _7 years_ to finance the lawsuit to recoup _something_, and they eventually won judgments but were unable to collect because Zuckerman and Tencer didn't have any visible assets.

The only important thing they got back was control of the original copyrights, many years after being popular.

Given the history of The Romantics, I'm not surprised they're trying to stick up for themselves.

A history lesson:

http://www.metrotimes.com/editorial/story.asp?id=5363 [metrotimes.com]

--
BMO

Re:Romantics History (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450815)

Well, maybe they should have used that 7 years earnings to finance a nice life, and not fuel the engines of lawyers...

Re:Romantics History (3, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451281)

A sad story to be sure, but that doesn't justify them suing someone who is, for all intents and purposes, an innocent party. There are no laws against covering a song - so long as you pay the right royalties to the right places (which I am *sure* Activision isn't dumb enough to forego). If they're not seeing a penny of that, pursue the parties responsible for THAT...

Re:If true, poor move by the band (1)

justinmikehunt (872382) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450495)

- Fans of the title will be furious if they have to wait for weeks.
No one will really be waiting for anything though... This is from the Guitar Hero 2 80s Edition, which came out during the summer IIRC. So anyone who's been waiting for the game already has it...

Re:If true, poor move by the band (4, Funny)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450557)

A withdrawal might ensure that the next edition has some new loading screens:

"Any percieved similarity to the original song is unintended. Rock out!"
"If you complete this song on Expert, it may be considered a threat to the original band's income!"
"Dear The Romantics, remember when it used to be about the music?"
"If your only fans are the RIAA, then go back to the nursing home."

Re:If true, poor move by the band (1)

Om (5281) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450583)

Maybe I'd had been bothered but I would certainly try not to make an ass out of myself in front of my fans.


No joke. I mean, if anything this would help sell a few of their old albums. It's freaking publicity that they otherwise wouldn't have gotten! The last time someone did this it was...

...oh shit...

umm... Can someone please check on Metallica and see how they are doing? I hear they have a song on this game. We must remain vigilant.

Re:If true, poor move by the band (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450741)

umm... Can someone please check on Metallica and see how they are doing? I hear they have a song on this game. We must remain vigilant.

The game in question is Rock the 80s. Metallica has songs on Guitar Hero III and Rock Band, but they're the actual songs rather than covers. This is one place where Metallica can't sue.

Re:If true, poor move by the band (1)

Noah Adler (627206) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450675)

Obviously the idea that they could make a quick buck is their motivation for suing. When was the last time you heard of them releasing a new hit moneymaker? The members of the band have clearly been convinced that they can make more money by suing than by writing new material. Such is the state of this industry. (Note: Since it sounds like I'm being contentious, I have to point out that I agree with you where it counts)

Re:If true, poor move by the band (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21450703)

You are a bit ignorant. It's a typical tactic for lawyers to make outrageous demands, especially putting the stop to sales of a product until a lawsuit is settled. YES it would be extremely damaging to Activision, anger customers, etc. That's the idea. You make those demands, but the real intentions are to force a more reasonable settlement.

Having said that... the Romantics are being fucktards towards something that will (and likely HAS) bring lots of new fans to rediscover their music.

Re:If true, poor move by the band (1)

dank zappingly (975064) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450817)

but if the band had fans, they wouldn't have to drum up publicity with this half-assed cause of action

Last time I checked... (2, Insightful)

mille666 (798904) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450461)

...Imitation was the highest form of flattery. Ohwell, times change.

Re:Last time I checked... (4, Funny)

Scamwise (174654) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450737)

This common phrase has been changed to "Imitation is the highest form of infringement" or at least it was until it was sued by the owners of the original flattery statement due to copyright infringement.

Songs by "The Original Artists" (4, Funny)

Derling Whirvish (636322) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450545)

BTW, when I was a kid and compilations of hits by cover groups was common (sorta like "Kidz Bop" now is) rarely would compilations of the original songs be offered on TV due to the high costs of getting the licenses. But I remember one TV offer in particular that was a group of recent hits and the name of the cover group was "The Original Artists." The come-on was something like: "20 of 19xx's greatest hits all by 'The Original Artists." I still LOL over the marketing slimeball that came up with that one.

Re:Songs by "The Original Artists" (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450745)

That's like that band One Night Only getting all those amazing gigs everywhere...

Re:Songs by "The Original Artists" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21450937)

motherfuckers

Re:Songs by "The Original Artists" (1)

Vskye (9079) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451667)

Dude, I was burned on this one when I was a kid. Seen the ad on the TV and sent them like $19.95 (or whatever) and got a LP that was more flexible than a porn star. PLUS, it was a damn band called the "The Original Artists".. considering I was like 13 at the time, that sucked. Lesson learned.

Done to death (2, Informative)

DeathElk (883654) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450553)

Here in Australia, one of the major commercial stations used this song as their station promo for... what seemed like an eternity. I don't really care if I never hear it again!

meh to them (1)

jen3505 (89907) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450575)

The Romantics suck. They shilled for my alma mater who was marketing the hell out of long-distance services at the time. Haven't they sold that one song like 1,000,000 times?

Slashdotters unite! (4, Funny)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450579)

Let's all boycott buying Romantics albums!!!

That'll show 'em!

Covers vs. derivative works (5, Informative)

WhiskeyJuvenile (534710) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450591)

A cover -has- to sound like the original in order to qualify under the compulsory licensing scheme in America. If the cover reworks the original, it's not a cover but a derivative work, and is infringing.

Re:Covers vs. derivative works (3, Insightful)

webmaestro (323340) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450701)

Actually, under 17 USC Sec. 115(a)(2) - "A compulsory license includes the privilege of making a musical arrangement of the work to the extent necessary to conform it to the style or manner of interpretation of the performance involved..." As long as you keep the melody pretty much the same you could make a rap version of a country song for all the copyright law cares. It's true that it would be considered a derivative if it modifies it extensively, and would therefore not be eligible for compulsory licensing. Likely though, the Guitar Hero song was not under a compulsory license, but a separately negotiated license, such as through the The Harry Fox Agency.

On a similar point, you can make it sound as close to the original as possible, as long as you don't use the actual recording. That is to say you make your own recording. Though you still have to license the underlying musical composition, which is a separate copyright than the recording of the performance. 17 USC 114(b).

Yay bands (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450613)

Okay so they're all on smack, which is how they got the idea to sue in the first place, and with the imaginary proceeds from the suit they'll be able to buy even more smack.

How about "FOAD ya one-hit wonder" ? I never understood how you can copyright three chords.

Re:Yay bands (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450785)

One hit wonder?

"What I Like About You", the 'hit' song in debate reached #48 in the US.

"Talking In Your Sleep" reached #3.

"One In A Million" reached #37.

Not one hit wonders.

Re:Yay bands (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21450855)

Having a song reaches #48 doesn't mean you have a "hit". Ever hear about Top 40 radio stations?

Most people would define a "hit" as a song that reaches the top 10, and that makes them a one hit wonder. Your pathetic list shows that. Talent? More like luck and an audience that wouldn't know good music if it bit them on the ass.

Somebody should have told this band before they started, "Don't quit your day job."

Re:Yay bands (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450877)

> I never understood how you can copyright three chords.

Heh.

What would be really great would be if you couldn't copyright music without counterpoint, on account of its being too trivial. Something tells me that particular reform won't be quick in coming, though.

In all seriousness, of course, it isn't the three chords themselves that are copyrightable, but a particular _arrangement_ of the three chords (or, even, just the arrangement of lead notes that form the melody line). That and the lyrics. Not that that low standard makes for good music, or anything, but yeah, it's copyrightable. For much the same reason, the lyrics to (This Song's Just) Six Words Long, and the linguistically challenged songs it parodies, are copyrightable also.

No way should it be pulled (4, Interesting)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450617)

The point is the game company should have a reasonable expectation that what they were doing was legitimate. Withdrawing the product is an unreasonable action and grossly harms the game company when there is a serious question that they did anything wrong in the first place. Lots of covers of songs sound just like dumbed down versions of the original. The only way they might have a case is if there was a reasonable expectation of confusion and the game company was selling the cover version as a single or part of an album. There's no damages in this case since the record company owns the song and licensed it for use. Go to Las Vegas, there's a bunch of lookalikes doing covers every night of songs and they even dress like the stars to "Create" confusion with the original artist. If they advertised the game as including the Romantics song that could also be grounds since they are using the band's name to help sell games but I take it that isn't the problem. Basically the band got screwed out of money because the record company owns their songs not them. That's the issue not a game company ripping them off.

Guitar Queer-o (-1, Offtopic)

68th Overlord (683058) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450631)

I haven't played the game or heard the alleged cover. Regardless, all I can think of on the topic is last week's South Park episode, called "Guitar Queer-o". Of course if I were a musician and a facsimile of my music were being featured in a lame video game, I might sue to try to stop that. As a gay guy myself I'm not enthused about the Parker-Stones (ab)using the gay = lame meme. Pussy-whipped straight guys seem a lot closer to deserving a lame tag than guys into raw man-on-man action, but I digress. The overall mocking of Guitar Hero in the episode was pretty funny, and aside from the last minute was quite enjoyable.

Re:Guitar Queer-o (0, Offtopic)

Psychor (603391) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450697)

I admit it, you're the most macho guy on Slashdot. You can go back to picking out decor now.

Re:Guitar Queer-o (1)

Kill all Muslims (845937) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450941)

But God hates fags.

Throw the case out (1)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450647)

Isn't it obvious that the band is just attempting to squeeze money out of the makers of guitar hero?

I guess if you can't get rich, you can sue someone who is.

If only Activision had used... (5, Funny)

DreadfulGrape (398188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450683)

more cowbell!

paying for covers is horse shit anyway (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450715)

No one should ahve to pay for covers on a song anyway. it's your own creation written by someone else.

It went Wii, Wii, Wii (4, Funny)

Eccles (932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450753)

The band's attorneys have indicated that they are seeking an injunction that would force the game to be withdrawn from sale.

I've been trying to buy the Wii version for the kids; as far as I can tell, they've succeeded.

Re:It went Wii, Wii, Wii (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450787)

I've been trying to buy the Wii version for the kids; as far as I can tell, they've succeeded.

If you've been trying to buy Rock the 80s [gamerankings.com] for Wii, you've got a much longer wait than you think. That game was only released on PS2.

Re:It went Wii, Wii, Wii (1)

DeathElk (883654) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450901)

Lucky us in Australia, I picked up GHIII for Wii two weeks ago, introductory special at BigW (== oz walmart?), for AUD$98 (about US$85), rrp AUD$159.95. "Have fun" said the checkout lady. I did.

In Other News, Milli Vanilli Sues Rock Band Game (3, Funny)

Skeetskeetskeet (906997) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450791)

Saying that the in-game character lip syncs "Girl You Know Its True" better than they did.

Decide for yourself (5, Informative)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 6 years ago | (#21450899)

I found these clips on Youtube:

The Original [youtube.com]
Guitar Hero Version [youtube.com]

Re:Decide for yourself (3, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451175)

Having listened to both versions, besides seeming to have different mixing ratios (guitar was realllly emphasized in hero), I find myself having to ask: What do they need for it to not count as 'too close'? I mean - I'll admit that the main singer in hero was close, but I can tell the differences in side by side.

Having watched some of those karaoke and band shows on the tube* today, I know that there are people who can get scarily close when they imitate some popular bands.

I have no problems believing that a good cover band, selected somewhat selectively to imitate a popular song, being fully capable of 'scary imitation'. IE what else were they expecting? Their number turned into a rap song? For the cover band to suck, for a major production?

A cover band was probably needed as suitably separated/isolated recordings didn't exist for the song, and the band is no longer capable of playing it to their old level. We are talking about an '80s band here, and not one that's kept up either.

*Weird thought: How long until people won't know what that means?

lolz (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451019)

If I were The Romantics, I would be flattered and take it as a complement that people are still willfully listening to my music... let-alone featuring it in a very popular game.

IP law insanity (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451033)

This is what is so crazy about "intellectual property". Every one of the songs in Guitar Hero is grounds for a potential winning lawsuit. It is extremely difficult to round up all the permissions necessary to put together something like Guitar Hero. The Beatles did it for the cover of Sgt. Pepper, and it was a lot of time and work. Don't know who else has tried something like that. Maybe no one. I expect a whole lot of people wish they could have. Wonder how different art would be if not for this sort of thing. And that's just getting permission from all those copyright holders. Doesn't even begin to cover all the patents the software and hardware probably violated.

Then we have this ridiculous threat that Guitar Hero may have to be pulled from the shelves! Sounds eerily similar to the threat to shut down RIM's Blackberry network, or the death injunctions that Vonage is facing. It's as if Solomon actually chopped the baby in half to settle that particular dispute. Or heck, why stop there-- execute the baby and both women! What's with the courts even entertaining such destruction of value as a "remedy"? Assess fines, don't do this scorched earth idiocy.

Is the band being scummy, or is it that the law is so twisted this is the best way they can get something after being screwed by the labels? I don't know, but for users it's like you're just minding your own business, maybe playing a video game in the security of your own home, when bullets come flying in from a random drive-by shooting, nail the TV and break a few other things. The band is like the shooters-- what's a little collateral damage next to revenge on that gang of sharks and the whole world of crap that enabled this?

Re:IP law insanity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21451187)

It is extremely difficult to round up all the permissions necessary to put together something like Guitar Hero
No, no it's not.
Compulsory licensing for cover versions means that it's very easy.

Anyone can produce a cover of a song, without the original artist's permission - they just pay a standard fee / royalty to a rights clearing house who will then pass it on to the artists.

Of course, if you _want_ to, you can contact the artists first and arrange different terms, but you don't have to.

This I cannot believe - very murky business! (3, Informative)

zuki (845560) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451059)

After over 30 years working in publishing and recording, I must confess that I had never, ever heard of such a frivolous assertion.

This is one of the most bizarre, convoluted claims one could imagine, as there clearly is no law preventing people from sticking close
to a song's original arrangement and sounds in a cover version, and arguably no way to prove, or no standards ever established to
define where things could be 'too close for comfort', or what would in turn constitute enough of a difference to be safe.

Matters here are not a case of impersonation, it's more just a bunch of musos with solid chops playing well, and 'nailing it' in the studio.

Also, isn't the whole Karaoke [wikipedia.org] business built on recording cover versions that stick so close to the original as to make them indistinguishable?

In theory, - if I were the game's publisher -, I would go to trial on this, as there is no legal set precedent that I have ever heard of.
However, before rushing to do so, there are two interesting bits to consider here, both gleaned from reading the excellent article linked on the band's history:
  • This band is one of the rare winners of any lawsuit to regain ownership of their own compositions, and may feel emboldened by this fact.
  • They managed to retain the services of a top-flight lawyer who didn't seem to flinch at the idea of taking up a long and drawn-out uphill battle on contingency.
So as far as the band, thinking that they've already won once in court, they may decide to stick it out, truly thinking that they'll do so again.
From a legal perspective, if this went to trial, and some moronic jury actually awarded hem damages, think of the chilling effect such
a precedent would have on the whole 'cover version' process, and incidentally to this game publisher's gravy train franchise.

What's to then stop another aging rock star to show up at one of your gigs as a cover band, and sue you claiming that you're too close to their original?

So perhaps, there's a pragmatic legal counsel at the game publisher's headquarters that will make the suggestion that it might be better to shut them up
(by offering them a sealed out-of-court settlement for a few millions, out of the $115,000,000.00 they recently made in the first seven days their newest
game was offered for sale
!) than risk turning the whole 'cover version' business upside down, which could cost them and everyone else heaps more,
and might well become one of the worst legal precedents ever set.

After thinking back on all of these ideas, the band's strategy might not be anywhere as bad as what any layperson thinks.

Rather than to risk setting the precedent, the game's publisher may just push to settle this one quickly for undisclosed terms out of the public's eye....
If they don't, all of this could hinge on 10 morons serving jury duty, and who will vindicate the band by just trying to quickly have the trial over
with, and get back to their normal lives rather than agonizing in court for what could turn out to be weeks of boring deliberations.

Oh, yeah!... IANAL, and all of the other disclaimers too.

Z.

Re:This I cannot believe - very murky business! (1)

shark72 (702619) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451697)

"I would go to trial on this, as there is no legal set precedent that I have ever heard of."

Good thing you're not their counsel, then. In Midler v. Ford Motor Company, the 9th circuit court held:

"When a distinctive voice of a professional singer is widely known and deliberately imitated in order to sell a product, the sellers have appropriated what is not theirs and have committed a tort in California."

Ford had tried the same shenanigans that Activision is apparently doing: they didn't want to pay to use Bette Midler's original recording, so they hired one of her background singers to create an exact sound-alike, in an effort to confuse listeners.

Then there's Waits v. Frito-Lay -- That's Waits as in Tom Waits. That also went to the 9th circuit court, and Tom Waits got something in the area of $2MM. The decision is a fascinating 16 pages if you truly have an interest in learning more about this area of the law; it covers the Midler decision as well.

The bad news for Activision is that they're in California, so this will likely also go go the 9th circuit court.

The bottom line is that there's a huge difference between paying for the rights to do a cover, and making a recording that is designed to fool people into thinking it's somebody else. Companies have been nailed for doing this before, and it'll happen again. The Romantics are asserting that Activision is trying to do just that.

You lost me with your talk of "setting precedents", "worst legal precedents ever set," etc. I think you used the word "precedent" four or five times in the post. In reality, the opposite is the case: there's already plenty on the books to make it look not so good for Activision.

Greedy lawyers and clients (1)

knorthern knight (513660) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451361)

WTF is a "cover version" SUPPOSED to sound like? As long as they got appropriate permisiions under contract, Activision shouldn't be subjected this crap.

If this crap was in effect in the 1950's and 1960's, Chubby Checker would never have gotten anywhere with his cover of a Hank Ballard and the Midnighters B-side called "The Twist". I'm an oldies afficianado, and I have a hard time telling the two records apart. The average person could listen to the two versions, and not know which was which.

not totally unrelated? (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451509)

In not totally-unrelated news you can download the Mjolnir mix of the Halo theme for play on GHIII, free, today.

That has about, oh, NOTHING to do with the article. Thanks for using slashdot to plug your website, wanker.

Bargin Bin Music (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21451521)

The artist is given credit in the game(which i own and enjoy) the cover is not made available besides on the game disc and if i really wanted to get the song i'm sure i could dig around in the 2.99$bin at (random music store) or (random -mart)

Well maybe... (1)

whatevah (1130459) | more than 6 years ago | (#21451581)

..maybe "The Romantics" are on "Heroine Hero" and have lost touch with the reality.
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