BootLeg Betty

BetteBack March 23, 1992: The Supreme Court Upholds Bette’s Award From Advertising Agency

Lawrence Journal World
March 23, 1992

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today let stand a $400,000 award Bette Midler won against an advertising agency that used a “sound-alike” singer for a television commercial five years ago.

The justices, without comment, rejected arguments by the ad company Young & Rubicam that the award — based on a “misappropriation of voice” — should have been pre-empted by federal copyright law.

A federal jury in Los Angeles, applying California tort law, awarded Midler the $400,000 in 1988 after finding that Midler’s exclusive right to her vocal style had been violated.

Young & Rubicam originally had asked Midler, an actress and Grammy-winning singer, 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, the ad company asked Ula Hedwig, who once worked as a backup singer for Midler, to mimic Midler’s voice in the commercial

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