Tom Waits Deals Another Legal Blow to Imitators
Mon, 23 Jan 2006 09:27:42
Any ad executive who's recently made a pitch that included the words, "and the music will be just like Tom Waits!" might want to sit down and reconsider. Waits has won a case against Volkswagen-Audi and Tandem Campany Guash, after an appeals court in Barcelona found that the car company had hijacked Waits' distinctively gruff vocal style for a commercial. Waits had previously rejected the production firm's request for song usage ("Innocent When You Dream"), so the company apparently decided to manufacture a little Waits magic of their own.
The venerated singer/songwriter keeps a famously low profile, but he will not hesitate to serve impostors with legal papers. Through the years, he has aggressively protected his "style" from being appropriated for commercial ends, a prospect which he compares, in a typical Waitsian flourish, to "having a cow's udder sewn to the side of my face. Painful and humiliating."
In 1990, he won $2.5 million after it was found that Frito-Lay had taken generous amounts of inspiration from his vocals and songwriting. In 1993, he sued the company that had handled much of his earlier publishing, claiming that they had licensed his songs to foreign markets without receiving permission. In 2001, he took up legal arms against MP3.com, and Waits is currently suing General Motors and the German advertising company McCann Erickson for similarly illicit commercial imitations.
Waits acknowledged that these battles against his "unscrupulous doppelgangers" continue to demand a large amount of time and money, but his victories have become influential precedents in the field of intellectual property.
-- The ARTISTdirect Staff