Lawrence Journal World
March 23, 1992
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