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Tom Waits In Legal Battle With French Circus Act
Christian Eede , October 10th, 2016 12:54

Waits says that French circus performer Barbatas the Furious has used his music improperly and without permission

Tom Waits is currently locked in a fierce legal dispute with French circus act Barbatas the Furious who he claims have used his music without his permission.

Barbatas is one of France's best-loved circus performers, but the use of Waits' music in his show, entitled On Achève Bien les Anges (They Shoot Angels, Don’t They?), could delay its debut here in the UK. As The Guardian reports, the dark mood of the show has made it popular with some French audiences but Waits feels differently, saying: "None of the customary courtesies between artists were observed."

He says that 16 songs written by him, alongside his wife Kathleen Brennan, feature in the show and form “the narrative heart and soul” of Barbatas' act, going so far as to claim that Bartabas impersonates him onstage. For that reason, he and Brennan have asked for €500,000 in compensation.

"What I say yes to and what I say no to creates the shape of how I am perceived," Waits says in his case. "What I mean to my audience cannot be made separate from the music. It is absorbed into the songs and together they go into the ear of the listener.

"Honestly, France is the last country I ever expected to encounter this situation: they have a minister of culture for Chrissake!; moral rights and a strong commitment to honour, support and defend artists."

The issue has been making its way through France's courts since last month. "It is clear that I would not have created this show in the same way if he had said he did not agree with the use of his songs," Bartabas has said in reponse to the case. He also claims that a fee of €400,000 has already been paid.

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