Kurt Cobain's widow has caused more than a little frustration with his fans over the years. But this last insult comes with a court date. Mostly because she claims she didn't do it.
This week, Activision released the new version of Guitar Hero, complete with a dirty but cute avatar of Kurt Cobain. While Nirvana purists may not appreciate seeing the band's deceased lead singer in digital. Insult was added to injury because Cobain's avatar is used differently than other famous characters in the game.
While gamers can use Cobain to sing his own songs, Activision has unlocked the character to allow him to sing any number of other genres, from rap to hair metal. And while it may be amusing to watch Cobain sing Flavor Flav songs, Courtney Love claims she did not grant Activision this right. Activision says they acted within their rights.
But even if Love is wrong and did allow the company to use Cobain's likeness exactly as they are, it might be in their best interest to back off.
In typical Courtney Love fashion, the controversy broke out on Twitter, where the Hole singer wrote:
"Not in twenty JILLION years would I EVER have allowed this."
She is now suing Activision for breach of contract.
The surviving members of Nirvana, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl put out a statement calling on Activision to alter the game.
"We are dismayed and very disappointed in the way a facsimile of Kurt is used in Guitar Hero. The name and likeness of Kurt Cobain are the sole property of his estate – we have no control whatsoever in that area.
"We didn't know players have the ability to unlock the character. This allows the character to be used with any kind of song the player wants. We urge Activision to do the right thing in 'relocking' Kurt's character."
Activision is arguing that it acted legally and secured the necessary licensing rights from the Cobain estate to use his likeness as a fully playable character in "Guitar Hero 5." They write:
"Activision reached out with their official comment: 'Guitar Hero secured the necessary licensing rights from the Cobain estate in a written agreement signed by Courtney Love to use Kurt Cobain's likeness as a fully playable character in Guitar Hero 5.'"
But even if that is all true — and Love knew about the avatar usage before fans got upset — conceding the limitations that Love and Cobain's bandmates have asked for could be in Activision's best interest.
Marketing Cobain's likeness in the game has already brought the gaming company attention (though not as much as Rock Band earned this week with the launch of "The Beatles: Rock Band"). Furthermore, many people have seen the game in action because of the Cobain controversy. Videos of Cobain's avatar dancing and singing to Billy Idol and Bon Jovi songs — among others — have gone viral online, which has done a great job of exposing people to what the game looks like right now.
Allowing players to use Cobain to sing songs out of his genre might add to the surreal experience of the game, but the really fun/disturbing part — watching Cobain sing other people's songs — will wear off. And keeping him in this role in the game could actually damage the Guitar Hero brand if it pisses off enough people.