Romantics Show No Love for Guitar Hero

Dennis Faas's picture

Here's a new one for the copyright infringement crowd: Guitar Hero publisher and long-time video game staple Activision is being sued by 1980s one-hit wonders The Romantics for using a pseudo version of their song "What I Like About You". Needless to say, it isn't much of a 'rock and/or roll' attitude.

The lawsuit was filed against Activision last Tuesday in a U.S. District Court in Detroit, Michigan. The California publisher is being sued for unspecified damages for the "What I like About You" version it uses in Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s, a stop-point between the more popular Guitar Hero II and Guitar Hero III. Unlike these two games (Guitar Hero III was launched last month), Rocks the 80s is available only for Sony's PlayStation 2, and not the Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, or PlayStation 3. Rocks the 80s was released in July.

The band, who many music pundits consider to be one of the foremost one-hit wonders from a one-hit wonder decade, is seeking an injunction against the game, which often uses a cover band to re-create songs. Other examples include Guitar Hero II's use of "Heart Shaped Box" by Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name of".

According to lawyers for the Romantics, the issue isn't about copyright since the group did actually provide the Guitar Hero-maker with permission to use the song. Instead, the band is flabbergasted that Activision's cover tune for "What I Like About You" sounds so much like the original version.

That's a new one for copyright infringement legal history, indeed.

"It's a very good imitation, and that's our objection," said the band's attorney, William Horton. "Even the guys in the band said, 'Wow, that's not us, but it sure sounds like us.'" (Source:

According to some legal experts, the case could play out much differently than previous, similar suits. Jessica Litman, a law professor and copyright specialist at the University of Michigan, says "putting something in a game is quite different from putting it in a commercial."

To some, this means an injunction into the sale of Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80s is a real possibility. However, I'll go so far as to rail against USA Today, which finds that it could mean the removal of one of the holiday season's hottest games from store shelves. (Source:

Let's face it, Rocks the 80s was an Activision cash-grab while the company worked on the new Guitar Hero III platform. Given its availability only on the very dated PS2, its retail death would go widely unnoticed.

Sounds a lot like the Romantics' music careers.

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