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Tom Waits
Photo: Anton Corbijn

Tom Waits Sticks It to the Man
Tom Waits has won his legal battle against Volkswagen-Audi for using music in a commercial that sounded amazingly similiar to his song Innocent When You Dream. Waits argued that the music was essentially reverse-engineered from his song, with the sound and singing style co-opted from his own style.

The most interesting part of this scenario is that the advertising firm that created the commercial, Tandem, actually first approached Tom to license his song. Tom has a long standing reputation of not allowing his music to be used for advertising, so he turned down the offer.

Tandem then actually went ahead with creating a sound-alike track, mimicking Tom's musical and vocal style, so as to co-opt his image. Pretty gutsy considering they just put themselves on Tom's radar screen, right? When you also stop to consider that Tom also has a history of suing others that try to co-opt his image (Frito-Lay and Germany's Opel), you have to wonder who might be in charge at Tandem and whether they still have a job.

The legal cage match went down in Spain, where Tom was awarded 36,00 Euros for copyright infringement and 30,000 Euros for violation of his moral rights, based on an individuals reputation and personality.

In a statement on the ANTI- Records web site, the label was excited over the courts decision, saying "It is the first time that such moral rights - protecting the personality and reputation of writers and authors - have been established in a Spanish court, acknowledging an artist’s voice as his creative work." So Spain has decided that an artist's style and method are worthy of ownership, and artists aren't just measured by their literal output — the song. Call it Tom's intellectual property.

"It's part of an artist's odyssey," Tom said, "discovering your own voice and struggling to find the combination of qualities that makes you unique. It's kind of like your face, your identity. Now I've got these unscrupulous doppelgangers out there — my evil twin who is undermining every move I make.''

In the fine standing tradition of an upstart, he added, "Commercials are an unnatural use of my work. It's like having a cow's udder sewn to the side of my face. Painful and humiliating."


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