BootLeg Betty

BetteBack March 24, 1992: Supreme Court Backs Award For Midler

Daily Herald
Supreme Court backs award for Midler
March 24, 1992

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a $400,000 award Bette Midler won against an advertising agency that used a “soundalike” singer for a television commercial.

The justices, without comment, rejected arguments by the ad company Young & Rubicam that the award should have been pre-empted by federal copyright law. A federal jury in Los Angeles, applying C a l i f o r n ia tort law, awarded the actress and Grammy-winning singer the $400,000 in 1988 after f i n d i ng that her exclusive right to her vocal
style had been violated.

The ad company originally had asked Midler to perform her version of the song “Do You Wanna Dance?” for a Ford Motor Co. commercial aired in 1986. After she turned down the offer, it asked Ula Hedwig, who once worked as a backup singer for Midler, to mimic Midler’s voice in the commercial.

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