A federal court in Los Angeles has ordered advertising agency Young and Rubicam to pay actress-singer Bette Midler $400,000 for using her backup singer to imitate her voice in a television car commercial.
Midler sued the agency and Ford Motor Co., claiming that they had violated her rights by using Ula Hedwig to imitate her 1971 rendition of “Do You Wanna Dance” in a commercial for a Mercury Sable car.
During the trial, Midler, who had asked for $10 million, said she did not believe in doing commercials. “I worked very hard all my life to build up trust between myself and my audience,” said Midler, whose films include “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” “Ruthless People” and “Outrageous Fortune.”
“I don’t believe some big corporation has a right to infringe on that trust,” she said. Ford was later dismissed from the suit.
In a statement after the court’s ruling Monday, Young and Rubicam said that the agency had obtained all the necessary clearances required by existing law but that a court of appeals had introduced a new application of common law that the agency would uphold in any future advertising.
“Miss Midler asked for $10 million; the jury has now awarded her $400,000,” the statement said. “Given the circumstances, we find this unfortunate but bearable.”