Dang. Just as I was set to write an uber snarky post criticizing The Romantics, reality, and all of its well-known biases, crept in. A cover of the Detroit-area band’s song “What I Like About You” appears in the latest release of Guitar Hero. The makers of the game had obtained the proper permission to cover the song and had a sound-alike group record the song. The only reason this became interesting is that the band is now suing because the cover version sounds too much like the real thing.
Now I was already to make fun of the band for being so easily duplicated (oh wait, I just did) and generally criticize a frivolous lawsuit. However, as I compiled the links for this post I actualy RTFA and, to my great dismay, found that the issue was much cloudier than I believed. Since the band’s original recording is also available, albeit for more money, the makers of the game had the option of using the original or recording a new one. There is a precedent for recording a new version that sounds just like the original, but as the Romantic’s lawyer points out, it’s very much in the favor of the original artists: Musicians have won similar court cases where various advertisers used cheaper, sound-alike recordings in commercials. Since there is money to be gained from implying that the actual band allowed their music to be used (such as in Voltswagon’s string of Wilco commericials) rather than crappy knock-offs of, let’s say, Beatles songs licensed by Michael Jackson so he could by another monkey. As long as money is gained by make a cover that sounds the same as another version, then that money should be distributed appropriately. In other words, the very act acknowledges that the original recording should have been licensed.
What I found interesting about this was how ready I was to make snarky comments about the Romantics and leave it like that. It just goes to show something that I feel often gets overlooked in the era of on-line news — if a story is too good to be true, it probably is. Especially if you read it on the Internet. Which, by the way, Al Gore never claimed to have invented, but did in fact take initiative in creating by introducing the Gore Bill.