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Yodeler Drops Lawsuit Against Yahoo

Copyright: The country and western singer and the Internet portal reach a deal over the weekend.

April 23, 2002|LISA GIRION | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Yodeler Wylie Gustafson, a country and western singer from Dusty, Wash., said Monday that he was dropping a lawsuit accusing Yahoo Inc. of poaching his three-note vocalization following what may have been the fastest settlement in the West.

News of Gustafson's $5-million lawsuit was carried around the world Friday, prompting Yahoo to put its top lawyer on a plane for a meeting in Los Angeles with the cowboy-poet's lawyer. His people had a deal with their people by sundown Saturday.

"I am the happy yodeler," Gustafson said Monday. "I was surprised. I said, 'Boy, that was fast.'''

Gustafson agreed not to disclose how much Yahoo would pay him. But, he said, it was "enough to feed my [10] hungry horses this winter"--and then some.

"While both parties had a reasonable basis for their beliefs, as soon as Yahoo learned of the suit, the company responded promptly and fairly," Yahoo said in a statement. "The Yahoo yodel, performed by Gustafson and known and loved by millions around the world, will continue to be used in Yahoo advertising and marketing."

Gustafson said he may even make appearances on behalf of the popular Web site.

Lawyers said the suit may have been the first to attempt to enforce a copyright on a yodel.

"Hopefully, this will make artists more aware and companies more aware of the value of copyrights and the use of artists' creations," Gustafson said. "Anything with a musical melody is copyrightable. It's not like I'm just yelling or screaming. There is a definite musical structure to that yodel."

Gustafson filed suit in Los Angeles last week after complaining in letters to the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company that they had used his yodel in thousands of commercials without paying for it.

Gustafson, who fronts the band Wylie & the Wild West, has recorded several albums, including "Total Yodel."

As one of the few professional yodelers in the country, Gustafson had commanded actors' union scale and residuals for performing in commercials for Porsche, Taco Bell, Miller Lite and others when yodeling was popular among advertisers in the 1990s.

He agreed to give the then-starving Internet start-up a break in 1996 and accepted a flat $590 for recording one Yahoo commercial. But when he heard his yodel on a Yahoo Superbowl commercial three years later, he cried foul.

Gustafson read news reports about his lawsuit on Web sites around the world. "I got an e-mail from a friend in Germany who said they played that yodel all the time over there," he said.

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