December 23, 2011 10:19am PT by Eriq Gardner
Video Game Lawsuit Suggests Guns 'N Roses Reunion Won't Happen
What are the chances that 2012 brings a Guns N' Roses reunion between Axl Rose and Slash?
The band was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which has naturally led to speculation about a possible reunion at a Cleveland ceremony next April. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times this past week, Rose said he still isn't keen on a reunion, but won't rule it out either, telling the paper that he knows it "means something" to the fans and that he wouldn't want to ruin the ceremony.
On the other hand, every time someone has tried to force a reunion, the GNR front-man has sued, from the since-settled lawsuit against former manager Irving Azoff for allegedly attempting to engineer a reconciliation to the pending $20 million legal action against Activision for bringing Slash back to GNR -- albeit in avatar form. That latter case is tentatively scheduled for a jury trial in May, just a few weeks after the band's induction in Cleveland.
In the lawsuit, Rose is alleging that Activision's use of the song "Welcome to the Jungle" in Guitar Hero III violated a deal not to use Slash in the popular game. GNR Music, which administers publishing rights to the band's songs, licensed Activision to use that big hit, but Rose claims that he was fraudulently induced into that agreement.
In a series of e-mails sent to Activision after a written synch license was executed, Rose's lawyers told Activision that Rose was withdrawing his approval because he was never told that Slash's image was going to be used as an "avatar." Activision went ahead with the game anyway.
If the case gets to trial, perhaps Rose will have another opportunity to explain to a jury in Los Angeles why the prospect of Slash-in-GNR is so unappealing. This time, to the tune of $20 million.
But will it get to trial?
The case involves ongoing legal controversy over the rights needed by companies putting out a product that features digital avatars of real-life personalities. In a pending motion for summary judgment, Activision points out that Rose's name and likeness do not appear anywhere in the game, although it could be argued that video game players would make that association anyway.
Nevertheless, Activision believes it has all the necessary rights in the form of a written synch license that contained no restrictions. The video game publisher asserts that e-mails sent by Rose's reps to the contrary before the game came out don't constitute a written contract between Activision and Rose.
Activision is also fighting other musicians in court on the issue of necessary rights for a music-themed video game.
We can't bring news about a Axl-Slash reunion, but we can exclusively report of a collaboration between Gwen Stefani and Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine.
Both singers allege they granted limited use on names and likenesses for Guitar Hero spinoff video game Band Hero, but that Activision took its permission slip too far by having their avatars sing, dance and perform other songs by other artists. The lawsuits have now been consolidated with a jury trial tentatively scheduled in Los Angeles for June. Let's hear it for teamwork.