Generally, though, I find the cover ethos defensible. Put your own spin on the work, in homage to the original; what comes out is good, a fresh way of seeing the original. Call it the Shakespearean aesthetic.
But where is the line between mimicry and imitation? The Romantics think they've found it:
Copyright isn't the issue for the Romantics. The band's attorneys said Activision properly secured permission to use the song What I Like About You, which allowed it to record a cover version. But by creating an imitation so much like the Romantics' original, they said, the company has infringed the group's right to its own image and likeness.The lawsuit threatens sales of Guitar Hero, itself a meta-cover experience.
Guitar Hero representatives did not return calls for comment.
Artists such as Tom Waits and Bette Midler have won legal victories on similar grounds for sound-alike recordings used in TV commercials. In those cases, the imitation recordings were ruled to have infringed the artists' rights to publicity by leading consumers to associate the artist with the advertised product.
What I Like About You was recorded for the game by the San Francisco music firm Wavegroup Sound, also named in the suit.
"It's a very good imitation, and that's our objection," said Troy attorney William Horton. "Even the guys in the band said, 'Wow, that's not us, but it sure sounds like us.'"