Jury Might Settle Guitar Hero Dispute

Santa Monica-based Activision is accused of using images of Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash in video game without permission from frontman Axl Rose.

A judge said Tuesday he is inclined to pare Axl Rose's $20 million lawsuit alleging Activision Blizzard Inc. broke a promise not to use images of former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash in the "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock" video game featuring one of the band's biggest hits.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Palmer issued a tentative ruling that would dispose of Rose's fraud and misrepresentation claims, but allow his breach-of-contract allegations against the Santa Monica-based company to go to trial.

However, Palmer said he wants additional briefing on some legal points before he makes a final determination.

Rose's court papers describe the contested tune, Welcome to the Jungle, as a "highly-renowned rock song of immense popularity regarded by fans and critics alike as one of the greatest hard rock songs of all time."

Rose, who has famously feuded with his former bandmates for years, maintains he never approved of using Slash's image in the video game featuring the song. He expressed his objections through his lawyers during production, but Activision went forward anyway, according to his court papers.

"We're very pleased with the court's tentative ruling," Activision attorney David Steinberg said outside the courtroom.

During a lengthy hearing, Steinberg argued in favor of dismissing all of Rose's case.

He said that when Wayne Milligan, licensing administrator for GNR Music, negotiated a deal for the video game with Activision in 2007, he was acting on behalf of Rose, Slash—whose real name is Saul Hudson—and bassist Duff McKagan. All three were members of the original Guns N' Roses.

"If Mr. Rose could not have done the deal himself, the agent could not have done it on his behalf," Steinberg said. "They're hanging on thin ice and they know it."

However, Palmer said he believes a jury should decide whether Milligan was acting as Rose's agent.

Rose's lawyer, A. Sasha Frid, said he was happy that Palmer was leaning toward allowing the contract portion of the case to go before a jury.

Frid maintains Rose agreed to allow the use of Welcome to the Jungle in the video game only if no images of the old Guns N' Roses lineup or of Slash's subsequent band, Velvet Revolver, were used.

"Guitar Hero III" has generated well over $1 billion for Activision, according to singer's lawsuit, filed in November 2010.


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