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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 14:52 GMT
Robbie escapes extra copy damages
Robbie Williams
Robbie Williams "substantially" copied a folk song
A High Court judge has ruled that Robbie Williams does not have to pay extra damages for copying lyrics from a 1961 Woody Guthrie song.

Williams must pay 25% of the income from his album track Jesus in a Camper Van, which amounts to about 50,000.

[I have] grave doubts as to who has actually won this case

Mr Justice Pumphrey
Jesus in a Camper Van contains lyrics that a judge previously decided were "substantially" copied from a song by Loudon Wainwright III, which in turn was based on I Am The Way by late folk singer Guthrie.

The copyright holders had tried to claim up to 100% of the income of the Williams track, which is owned by more than 2.5 million people in the UK on the album I've Been Expecting You.

But in Thursday's decision, Mr Justice Pumphrey said additional damages were not justified because the copyright infringement was not cynical or flagrant and the song had no particular "staying power".

Loudon Wainwright III
Loudon Wainwright III "inspired" Williams
Williams had written the song in the expectation that a normal copyright agreement would be reached, the judge said, and the 25% was always held back to pay for it.

The judge said he had "grave doubts as to who has actually won this case" and granted both sides leave to appeal.

He also ruled that any future copies of I've Been Expecting You must not include Jesus in a Camper Van.

In 2000, a judge decided that Williams had breached the original song's copyright, while EMI said Williams was "inspired by" the Loudon Wainwright track.


Williams' publishers, EMI and BMG, initially offered 25% to the holders of the copyright of the original song, New York-based Ludlow Music.

That offer was rejected and Ludlow said they wanted 50% in order to give permission for the song to be included on the album.

But the album, including the track, was released anyway with 25% of Jesus in a Camper Van's share held back for Ludlow.

When Ludlow took legal action, they were seeking 100% of the income, EMI said.

Ludlow's barrister, Pushpinder Saini, had urged the court to condemn the copying by making Williams, co-writer Guy Chambers and the singer's record and publishing companies pay punitive damages.


Guthrie's song includes the line: "Every good man gets a little hard luck sometimes", while the Loudon Wainwright version, described by the judge as a parody, ran: "Every Son of God gets a little hard luck sometimes, especially when he goes round saying he is the way".

In the song by Williams and Chambers, the lines were: "I suppose even the Son of God gets it hard sometimes, especially when he goes round saying I am the way."

A judge in October 2000 said: "In my view, the extent of the copying is substantial, although not by much."

Jesus in a Camper Van also appeared on the US compilation The Ego Has Landed.

See also:

02 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Robbie 'copied' folk song
20 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Robbie sued over song
11 Jun 98 | Entertainment
Billy Bragg's American mission
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