Spanish singer Julio Iglesias is being sued for copyright infringement by Miami songwriter Mimi Korman over a song she says she wrote lyrics for 40 years ago with the popular crooner.
The action, Korman’s third attempt since 1990, aims to hold Iglesias accountable for the unauthorized use of Me olvidé de vivir (I Had Forgotten to Live), a song originally written by French composers Pierre Billion and Jacques Revaux and turned into a hit by the late French singer Johnny Hallyday under the title, J’ai oublier de vivre in 1977.
Iglesias had acquired rights to the tune to release it in Spanish for his Emociones album, which was released by CBS Discos in November 1978.
The practice of translating songs for different markets isn’t unlike how Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” came to fame in early 1969. For “My Way,” singer-songwriter Paul Anka wrote English lyrics for the melody of another Revaux composition that had been written with Claude François. The Revaux-François tune was originally called Comme d'habitude.
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“My Way” became one of Sinatra’s signature hits, was also recorded by Elvis Presley near his 1977 death, and Anka made a fortune for his contribution to the song over the last nearly 50 years.
The news of Korman’s lawsuit over the Iglesias song was released on Wednesday in a statement sent to the media by the Bobadilla Law Firm, the entity that represents Korman.
Intellectual property attorney Fernando Bobadilla and deputy attorney Marcella Roukas filed the lawsuit on March 19 in Miami federal court. The damages have not yet been established. Iglesias’ attorney, Steven Eisenberg, has not publicly responded to the suit.
The suit alleges copyright infringement and unfair and deceptive commercial practices. It also seeks precautionary measures against any future infringement.
Korman said she signed a contract in 1978, but did not keep a copy, Daily Business Review reported.
According to the law firm’s statement, Iglesias, 74, contacted Korman in May 1978 to write the Spanish version of Hallyday’s J’ai oublier de vivre to personalize it or “make it his own.” Since its release on the Emociones album, the song, which peaked at No. 20 on Billboard’s Spanish singles chart in 1978, has been reproduced, distributed and published in various formats. Me olvidé de vivir turned up on Iglesias’ Spanish-language compilation album, Mi Vida: Grandes Éxitos in 1998.
The lawsuit alleges that Iglesias also licensed the song to other artists who have sold thousands of copies. The song has been recorded at least a hundred times.
“Mrs. Korman wrote the song. She has the rights to the song and therefore, she has the right to collect the benefits that she generates. She is suing for a deliberate violation of these rights and a court order prohibiting the later use of the song by Mr. Iglesias,” said her lawyer Fernando Bobadilla.
Forty years seems like a long time to sue over a song that was recorded back when Jimmy Carter was president, disco was in vogue, and music was consumed on vinyl LPs, 8-tracks and cassettes.
But, in fact, this is Korman’s third attempt to collect what she says she’s owed on this oldie.
A 1990 suit against Iglesias in federal court failed in part because the statute of limitations had expired. But a 2014 Supreme Court ruling in another case that pitted screenwriter Paula Petrella against Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer may have set legal precedent for Korman to try again with her copyright infringement claim.
Before that decision, people had three years to bring infringement claims. That 2014 case reset the clock by ruling, “each infringement act starts a new imitations period,” Daily Business Review reported. In 2016, Korman tried for the second time to sue Iglesias over the song for 33 percent of the royalties, and was not successful.
Korman’s suit allows her to look back three years for alleged infringements and her lawyers cite federal law that says she could collect up to $150,000 for intentional violations.
Korman, 77, who lives in Miami Shores, has collaborated with Vikki Carr, Armando Manzanero and Johnny Ventura.
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.