Robbie Williams Faces Plagiarism Suit

Singer Robbie Williams is facing a plagiarism suit in a U.K. court over lyrics that appear in his song "Jesus In A Camper Van," a track that appears on his British "I've Been Expecting You" LP as well as the U.S. compilation "The Ego Has Landed."

According to Reuters, Williams is being sued for allegedly breaching the copyright of a 1961 Woody Guthrie song "New York Town," as interpreted on the Loudon Wainwright III track "I Am The Way" from Wainwright's 1973 album, "Attempted Mustache."

At issue is the line from "Jesus In A Camper Van" in which Williams sings that "Even the son of God gets it hard sometimes, especially when he goes around saying 'I am the way.'"

Wainwright's "I Am The Way" contains the lyric "Every son of God gets a little hard luck sometime, especially when he goes around saying he's the way."

On the liner notes to Williams' "The Ego Has Landed" and "I've Been Expecting You," Wainwright III is credited with authoring elements of

"Jesus In A Camper Van," a track supposedly co-written by Williams and his frequent collaborator, Guy Chambers.

In an interview conducted with MTV News last year around the time of the U.S. release of "The Ego Has Landed," Williams indicated that he first heard the refrain from "I Am The Way" while he was in rehab, and that he later received oral permission from Wainwright III to use a few of the lyrics in "Jesus In A Camper Van."

"Well, I was in rehab one morning," Williams said, "and there was a strict regimen where you get up at 7 o'clock in the morning, every morning. I didn't even know there were two 7 o'clocks in one day. So I got up... and started having a cigarette, and this guy was looking out the window and he went, 'Even the son of God gets it hard sometimes, especially when he goes around saying "I am the way."'"

"And I went, 'What?' And he said it again, and I said 'That's brilliant. That's a lyric.'" And then somebody, one of the counselors, turned up

in a VW camper van, and he got out and his hair was all like Jesus, and I went, 'Jesus in a camper van, he said, "Sorry to leave you, but I've done all I can."'"

"I found out afterwards that Loudon Wainwright III actually wrote the lyric, 'Even the son of God gets it harder, sometimes, when he goes around saying "I am the way."' So, I phoned him up and asked 'Can I use it?' and he said, 'Yes.' So, cheers to Mr. Wainwright III."

Court documents indicate that Williams' U.K. label, EMI Chrysalis, had been seeking permission from the New York music publisher, Ludlow, who holds the copyright to the Wainwright/Guthrie composition, for almost two years.

Ludlow, in turn, asked for half of the royalties from the single and a portion from those albums which include "Jesus In A Camper Van." EMI Chrysalis rejected such a proposal, which prompted Ludlow to ask that the lyrics in question be removed from the song.

In the just-filed suit, Ludlow is now seeking a court order

expressly prohibiting Williams, Chambers, and both EMI and BMG from using elements from "I Am The Way" in the future, as well as over $75,000 in damages.

The London High Court has yet to schedule a date for the suit, but it is expected to begin hearing arguments in the case later this year.

Williams is currently working on his new album, tentatively due out in September, and has also recorded a song for use in the new animated film, "Titan A.E." (see Robbie Williams Gets Poetic As New Album Shapes Up").