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Tom Waits sues General Motors over adverts

Tom Waits is taking General Motors to court over a series of car commercials that perfectly mimic his singing style. Airing from late winter 2004 to early 2005 in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway, the suit in question names both General Motors’ Opel and the ad agency McCann Erickson in Frankfurt, Germany. Waits is known for his policy of refusing to allow his music to be licensed commercially, and, according to the suit, turned down big-money offers several times from Opel. After the defendants were informed of Waits long-standing policy against doing commercials, their agents hired a sound-alike singer to imitate Waits, according to the lawsuit. “Apparently,” Waits says in a statement, “the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad — ideally naked and purring on the hood of a new car. I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honour. Currently accepting in my absence is my German doppelganger. While the court can’t make me active in radio, I am asking it to make me radioactive to advertisers.” In countering, General Motors (the parent company of Opel) claiming that it did not seek out Waits or intend to use his voice. The suit also charges the defendants with violating Waits’ personality rights under German law. Waits is seeking recovery of the defendants’ gains, including their profits and cites a recent German case involving misuse of the iconic Marlene Dietrich’s personality rights. Waits was also forced to issue a press release in April of this year, assuring confused fans who had mistaken the sound-alike for him that he had not done the ad or changed his policy to keep his music, voice and image out of commercials.