A British High Court ruled on Monday that singer Robbie Williams and frequent collaborator Guy Chambers had violated the copyright of a Woody Guthrie track as interpreted by Loudon Wainwright III.
During the hearing, High Court Deputy Judge Nicholas Strauss noted that Williams and Chambers had "substantially copied" portions of a Guthrie tune, "I Am The Way," in "Jesus In A Camper Van," a track featured on Williams' U.K. album "I've Been Expecting You" as well as the U.S. compilation, "The Ego Has Landed."
According to Reuters, Williams and his publishers, EMI Music Publishing and BMG Music Publishing, will now face a trial to determine how much will be awarded to New York-based Ludlow Music, which owns the copyright on both the Wainwright and the Guthrie compositions.
The suit was filed in a London High Court earlier this year and revolved around the "Jesus In A Camper Van" refrain: "Even the son of God gets it hard sometimes, especially when he
goes around saying, 'I am the way'" (see "Robbie Williams Faces Plagiarism Suit").
That was apparently a little too close to the mark to the Wainwright III lyrics: "Every son of God gets a little hard luck sometime, especially when he goes around saying he's the way," from the singer-songwriter's "I Am The Way (New York Town)" from his 1973 LP, "Attempted Mustache."
The Wainwright III song was an extrapolation of Guthrie's original line from "I Am The Way," which simply said, "Every good man gets a little hard luck sometimes." Wainwright had registered his song as a joint composition between himself and Guthrie through Ludlow Music.
Judge Strauss ruled that Williams' "Jesus In A Camper Van" did take "the central idea from 'I Am The Way (New York Town),' namely that the son of God attracts bad luck by going round, saying, 'I am the way,' and [embodied] it in virtually identical words."
told MTV News that he had received oral permission from Wainwright III to borrow the phrase, although both EMI and BMG had been negotiating with Ludlow in an attempt to reach a financial settlement over the song prior to the suit being filed.