Actress-singer Courtney Love used Twitter to rail against what she claimed was the unauthorized use of Kurt Cobain's likeness in the video game Guitar Hero 5, going so far as to threaten a lawsuit.
But Activision, the maker of Guitar Hero, said the company is in possession of an agreement signed by Love that authorized it to create an avatar in the likeness of the former Nirvana front man. At this point who knows who is in the right. What is certain is that Love--widowed when Cobain shot himself in 1995--didn't present a convincing case by issuing meandering, disjointed, caustic, and barely readable Twitter posts.
Perhaps she came to the same conclusion. On Thursday evening, Love blocked public access to her Twitter account, courtneylover79.
Love's Twitter-tweak of Activision is a powerful endorsement for the need of celebrity publicists. In an age when a cell phone is all that is needed for stars to communicate with their fans, a carefully cultivated image can get shredded with a few ill-advised key strokes. Love's tweeting is an example of what can happen when someone famous, either out of anger, despair, or lunacy, addresses the Web without proper supervision.
"Have fun with your avatars you slimebags," the 45-year-old Love wrote in a Tweet posted early Thursday morning (most of the grammar and spelling is as it appeared in Love's posts). "i rant? F*** off i have proof youve simply never bothred to look. so f***ing play your videogame.
"we have NOTHING to do with this," she said in another post as she denied involvement with the Cobain avatar, "it was presented to me and oi said 'show me a better avataR' TO DRAG MY HEELS., never did i intend on allowing GUITARHERO for me or for Kurt i am NOT yoko f***ing Ono no ofense to her, but i am a different person entirely and this is insane."
Love later acknowledged that she did sign some sort of agreement with Activision.
"I signed whats known as a (deal) memo under great pressure and i was pleasnat to work with? HA i wouldnt show up i made them change all sorts of s***t, and even then i had no intention of doing his btw we get NO money for this, travesty, Frances (her and Cobain's daughter) gets NO money for the rape."
From reading Love's tweets, what appears to have happened is Activision went to Love for permission to use Cobain's likeness. When she saw that Cobain's avatar not only can be programmed to perform Nirvana's music but also the songs from Bon Jovi, Bush, and Madonna, she became dissatisfied. Her outrage also came after rock critics and Nirvana fans began holding her responsible for the alleged defiling of Cobain's memory.
Despite all her bluster, there may be little that Love can do to force Activision to make changes, said Mark Litvack, a well-known entertainment attorney at the law firm Reed Smith.
Litvack said that California law does indeed protect a deceased person's likeness. A California statute commonly referred to as the "Fred Astaire law," named after the legendary dancer and movie star whose likeness was used without permission following his death, says that anyone using another person's likeness for commercial purposes without consent from them or their estate "shall be liable for any damages sustained by the person or persons injured."
"But Activision would have known this," Litvack said. "It appears, she licensed her husband's likeness and the fact that she licensed them away was her decision. I get the sense that this is a case of sellers' remorse and as far as the law is concerned all she's left with is her remorse."
One way Love may benefit from her bizarre tweeting is that it's drawing attention to the Cobain avatar.
Anyone who has any knowledge of Cobain knows he took himself and his music very seriously and is unlikely to have allowed his likeness to be seen shimmying around on stage like some teen pop star or feigning the poses of a rap singer, which is what his avatar can be made to do on Guitar Hero 5.
Some may find the depiction to be disrespectful or at the very least not very authentic. That may do more to force Activision's hand than any Twitter bashing from Cobain's inarticulate wife.