NEWS: US court vindicates Tom Waits in battle for music copyright

Tom Waits, the singer and composer who won a lawsuit over the unauthorised use of one his songs in a 1993 Levi’s commercial, has finally had his victory upheld by the California Court of Appeal.

Tom Waits, the singer and composer who won a lawsuit over the

unauthorised use of one his songs in a 1993 Levi’s commercial, has

finally had his victory upheld by the California Court of Appeal.



Waits successfully sued the publishing company, Third Story Music, in

1994 over its decision to allow Levi’s and its UK agency, Bartle Bogle

Hegarty, to use the track, Heartattack and Vine, without seeking his

consent.



The ad, depicting a New Orleans funeral procession, used a cover version

of the song recorded by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.



At one point, it was feared that Levi’s and BBH might also be the

subject of writs and that the commercial would be prevented from running

in some countries. However, Waits’s dispute was confined to Third Story,

a company run by his former manager, Herb Cohen.



The Court of Appeal reaffirmed the original ruling that Waits’s personal

consent was required for any commercial use of his compositions.



The judgment required Third Story to ‘disgorge all monies received by

the use of Waits’s compositions in commercials’.



If BBH had been sued, it would have had indemnity because of the

contract it signed with the song’s UK licence holder, Warner Chapple.

The agency had insisted on striking out a clause which would have

limited the publisher’s responsibility and made the agency liable for

damages.



Waits, who has always refused to allow his work to be used in ads,

commented: ‘It has always been my belief that anything which degrades

the value of the work in turn degrades the artist.’