A couple of months ago, I tried to write a blog post concerning a lawsuit over the theme song for the television show The Big Bang Theory. (Trivia answer: the theme song is apparently called "The History of Everything"). I gave up on this task because the blog was just kind of boring and I thought to myself, "who cares about a lawsuit involving a song used on The Big Bang Theory"?
Okay, I was wrong. On December 28 two sisters, Ellen Newlin Chase and Margaret Chase Perry sued the producers and broadcasters of the show for copyright infringement for using their late mother's copyrighted composition "Soft Kitty" without a license. Fans of the show (my wife and I are near- obsessive fans) know the thematic importance of this song. It has been used on the show numerous times and apparently is used in all types of merchandise associated with the show.
“Warm Kitty" , written in 1937 by Edith Newlin was first published by a company called Willis Music in a book entitled "Songs for the Nursery School". Apparently Warner Brothers Television licensed the work from Willis Music even though it appeared that Ms. Newlin never assigned the copyright to the composition to Willis. As late as last summer, Willis Music was proudly touting its association with the song and the show on its website.
Much like the "Happy Birthday" case, the resolution of this case may depend on a review of old documents (for example, is there a contract somewhere giving Willis Music the right to issue synchronization licenses for television shows?) This kind of situation must be a nightmare for people who work in music licensing- trying to ascertain who has the rights to a particular musical work.
If the case goes forward, it might also be of interest to those of us who worry about indemnity clauses all day. Certainly somebody warranted to Warner Brothers Television that they own the rights to license this composition and I am sure they backed up this warranty with an indemnity clause. This will be an interesting case to watch.
However, until this is resolved I am more concerned with how Sheldon will get to sleep.