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Royalty Fees for Impersonations -- April Fool's Day, 2001
The London Sunday Telegraph reported that a new European law would grant individuals the right to own their voice and distinctive mannerisms. As a consequence, comedians and impressionists would be forced to pay royalties to those they imitated. Politicians, actors, and other public figures who are frequently imitated by satirists could therefore begin to receive substantial payments in addition to their regular income. Impressionists anticipated that the ruling would present a serious challenge to their livelihood. The ruling apparently arose from a case involving a French singer, Yves Gainsbourg, who claimed that other entertainers were profiting by imitating his idiosyncratic stage manner, "described as a cross between Tom Jones and Charles Aznavour." The ruling would extend even to "end-of-pier shows, where journeymen comedians still make careers out of impersonating Norman Wisdom, Mick Jagger and Boy George." The Finnish European Commssioner, Larip Loof, was quoted as saying that the ruling was "a logical progression" from existing laws covering intellectual property rights. The ruling was scheduled to become law on April 1, 2003.
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