CBS (and others), the network behind Big Bang Theory – the stars of which recently topped a list of the world's highest paid TV actors – is facing a claim for copyright infringement relating to a song on the show about a "soft kitty".
The claim is made by the daughters of the teacher, Edith Newlin, who is the author of 1930's poem "Soft Kitty". The daughters have previously sued other media companies in relation to the poem, and claim the lyrics have been used on eight Big Bang Theory shows since 2008.
Mrs Newlin's lyrics had been published in a book by Wills Music Co.. The book clearly stated that Mrs Newlin was the author and owner of copyright in the lyrics. However, the producers of Big Bang Theory reportedly sought permission to use the lyrics from Wills Music Co., who granted permission despite the book clearly stating that the copyright belonged to Mrs Newlin.
In addition to featuring in at least eight episodes of the show, the daughters claim the song has become an "emblematic feature of the show" and has been used on merchandise such as mouse pads, T-shirts and fridge magnets.
It will be interesting to see how the present claim unravels. Further to our news story in December on copyright and assignment, this case again exemplifies the importance of having clear intellectual property provisions in agreements and contracts. If a dispute arises and the legal owner of copyright (or any intellectual property right) cannot be traced a very expensive and time consuming legal battle may ensue.Posted by: in: Case Law, Copyright, News