The creators of the successful musical stage show the 'Jersey Boys' have been found guilty of copyright infringement by a court in Nevada, USA. This is a controversial end for the show which is due to finish its run early next year after being performed in London and New York since 2008 and 2005 respectively.
The claim was brought by the widow of Rex Woodward, a Texan lawyer who ghost wrote the unpublished autobiography of Four Seasons member Tommy DeVito. The autobiography was never finished as Woodward died in 1991 before completing the work. Following his death Woodward's wife commenced a claim against DeVito to get her late husband credited as a co-author of DeVito's autobiography, after DeVito had registered the manuscript of the unfinished autobiography as his own work.
After obtaining the copyright in the autobiography, his widow was able to bring a claim against the creators of the Jersey Boys, arguing that they had used parts of the autobiography without permission. The case was brought against the director and writers of the show. Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio, members of the Four Seasons, were earlier cleared of any liability on the basis that they were not aware that the autobiography had been used without permission in the show.
The judge ruled that at least eleven similarities between the autobiography and the musical were able to be identified. These similarities are thought to include dialogue surrounding songs, the description of some scenes and characterisation.
Jurors at a federal court in Nevada have decided that 10% of the show's success can be attributed to the copied material. The litigation is now set to move on to the damages phase of the trial and it is the jury who will decide the exact amount to be awarded to the claimants. The figure of 10% which it has been determined is the percentage of the show's success attributable to copying will also be relevant when it comes to considering any amount due in damages. For example it may be decided that as 10% of the show's success is attributable to the copying then 10% of profits would be due in damages.
The Defendants have indicated that they intend to appeal on the basis that some of the relevant passages could have been provided by any band member who was present and so copyright could not exist in them.Posted by: in: Copyright, News