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‘Knock off’ groups face new penalties in Illinois

Mary Wilson of the Supremes championed law that punishes pretenders
/ Source: The Associated Press

Copycat musical groups will face penalties if they misrepresent themselves as the original artists under a new Illinois law that was championed by Mary Wilson of the Supremes.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the measure Wednesday, which takes effect in January.

The law will require all live musical performers that use the name, songs and personas of another group to advertise that their act is a salute or a tribute.

Violators could be fined up to $50,000, have any license to perform suspended or be forced to pay damages to the original group or artist.

The Vocal Group Hall of Fame has backed the legislation as part of the “Truth in Music” initiative and is pushing to get similar laws passed in every state. Connecticut and Pennsylvania have already enacted laws.

Wilson called the Illinois law “a wonderful victory” for artists.

“From now on when the public goes to a rock ’n’ roll show in the area, they can be sure the artist is the original, and not some rip-off band,” she said in a written statement.

Wilson, who sang with Diana Ross in the 1960s Motown trio, visited Illinois lawmakers in January and urged them to approve the legislation. She said she has filed several civil lawsuits against groups claiming to be the Supremes. But she lost all the cases “because there were no laws to protect me.”

Bob Crosby, president and CEO of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation, says the legislation will give artists “long overdue respect, protect artists’ legacies and give hope to the vocal group artists that have suffered identity theft.”