LOS ANGELES, Sept. 15 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network — Tom Waits, the gravelly voiced, Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, has filed suit against
General Motors’ Opel and the ad agency McCann Erickson in Frankfurt, Germany
for producing and broadcasting a series of car commercials that used a perfect
impersonation of Waits’ singing voice.
Waits had been approached several times and refused to participate in the
advertisements. After the defendants were told that Waits has a long-standing
policy against doing commercials, their agents hired a soundalike singer to
imitate Waits, according to the lawsuit.
The commercials were produced in Germany, and aired throughout Sweden,
Finland, Denmark and Norway in late winter and early spring of this year.
Among other claims, the suit charges the defendants with violating Waits’
personality rights under German law. Waits seeks recovery from defendants’
ill-gotten gains, including their profits. This action is supported by a
recent German case involving misuse of the iconic Marlene Dietrich’s
In April of this year, Waits issued a press release to assure confused
fans who had mistaken the soundalike for him that he had not done the ad or
changed his policy to keep his music, voice and image out of commercials.
General Motors (the parent company of Opel) countered by claiming in the press
that it did not seek out Waits or intend to use his voice, but the facts
disclosed in Waits’ new suit depict an ad agency and its client determined to
bring Tom Waits’ unique voice to their campaign.
“Apparently,” Waits said, “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 honor.
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