Waits Crashes Another Car Ad

Tom Waits has won another lawsuit against a car manufacturer for imitating him on a TV commercial, marking the third time he’s crashed a car ad.

He has won undisclosed damages against Germany’s Adam Opel AG and its advertising agency, McCann Erickson Germany, following a Scandinavian TV marketing campaign in which they allegedly copied his voice and style.

Waits began his latest action in 2005, complaining that Opel’s use of a sound-alike in their TV commercials was like "having a cow’s udder sewn to my face – painful and humiliating."

He reportedly greeted the January 25th Frankfurt court ruling by saying, "I’m glad to be out of the car sales business once and for all."

A year ago, a Barcelona appeals court ruled that a Volkswagen-Audi commercial that ran on Spanish TV in 2000 had used a song with an identical structure to Waits’ "Innocent When You Dream" and had been sung by a vocal impersonator.

Spanish production company Tandem Campany Guasch had initially sought permission from Waits to use his original version of the song, which he refused.

The Spanish court awarded him euro 30,000 for violation of his moral rights and euro 36,000 for copyright infringement.

Prior to the Opel case, Waits said, "This is the third car ad, after Audi in Spain and Lancia in Italy.

"If I stole an Opel, Lancia, or Audi, put my name on it and resold it, I’d go to jail. But over there they ask, you say no, and they hire impersonators.

"They profit from the association and I lose – time, money, and credibility. What’s that about?"

The Opel settlement hasn’t been disclosed but Kevin Marks, Waits’ U.S. lawyer, said the net proceeds would go to charity. The Grammy Award-winning musician sought an injunction and at least US$300,000 in damages.

Waits has never allowed his songs to be used in advertising, for cars or anything else, and has always been quick to take legal action against those who breach his rights.

Thirteen years ago, he won a US$2.5 million court judgment against American corn chip company Frito-Lay (and its advertising agency) after they used an impersonator to mimic his voice in a radio advertisement.

At the same time, he sued his own song publisher (Fifth Floor Music) after it licensed "Heartattack and Vine" to jeans manufacturer Levi Strauss. He’s also halted his song "Ruby’s Arms" from being used by an American shaving company.