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Star Robbie loses copyright battle

LONDON, England -- Pop star Robbie Williams is facing a legal bill of more than $350,000 after a court ruling that one of his album tracks contained "substantial" copying from another song.

The High Court in London had ruled in October 2000 that the track -- "Jesus in a Camper Van" -- breached the copyright of the Woodie Guthrie song "I Am The Way" and an adaptation of the song by Loudon Wainwright III.

But in a ruling on Thursday, a judge refused to grant the copyright owners Ludlow Music punitive damages, instead awarding the company 25 percent of the royalties -- around $70,000 -- earned from the Williams song by the star, co-writer Guy Chambers and Williams' record and publishing companies.

Mr Justice Pumphrey also granted an injunction effectively banning future use of the part of the lyric which infringed copyright and preventing any new pressings of the recording of the song.

The defendants were also told to pay the costs incurred by the New York-based company up to the end of the October 2000 hearing -- another $70,000.

The judge also said each side must bear its own costs for the period after that date, which is estimated to set the Williams' side back a further $230,000, according to the UK Press Association.

The Williams track was co-written by Williams and Chambers for the 1998 album "I've Been Expecting You" in late 1997 or early 1998, with EMI Music Publishing and BMG Music Publishing acquiring the copyright.

The Guthrie song was written by the American folk singer in 1961 and adapted by Loudon Wainwright III in 1973.

Punitive damages

The original song included the line: "Every good man gets a little hard luck sometimes," while the Wainwright version ran: "Every Son of God gets a little hard luck sometimes, especially when he goes round saying he is the way."

The Williams song contained the line: "I suppose even the Son of God gets it hard sometimes, especially when he goes round saying I am the way."

Williams, Chambers, EMI and BMG accepted that parts of the Wainwright version had been used for Williams' song and credited Wainwright on the album, but denied that they amounted to what could be regarded as a "substantial part."

Ludlow's lawyers told the judge that the company had been willing from the outset of the dispute to grant a licence on condition that it received 50 percent of the royalties.

But the defendants, who offered no more than 25 percent, sanctioned release of the recording on the Chrysalis label without Ludlow's authority.

The company's lawyers had argued that this action required the court's "condemnation" in the form of additional punitive damages over and above the basic 50 percent royalty.

But the judge, who said he had "grave doubts as to who has actually won this case," said additional damages were not justified because the copyright infringement had not been cynical or flagrant.

Both sides were given permission to appeal.

Williams soared to international fame after launching a solo career following his sudden departure from the boy band Take That.


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