Historic TV song leads to copyright lawsuit

| Jun 5, 2019 | Intellectual Property Litigation |

Many people in New Jersey remember the classic opening theme song of “The Andy Griffith Show,” which aired on CBS from 1960 to 1968. Now, the tune is the subject of a legal dispute as heirs of its composer allege that CBS continues to use the song without a proper license. The song, known as “Theme for the Andy Griffith Show,” was written in the 1950s by two songwriters who later registered its copyright in 1960. The songwriters later gave the rights to the song to the Larabee Music partnership and passed them on after death to two trusts.

The trusts dissolved the partnership and transferred ownership of the copyrights to two more trusts designed to benefit the composer’s heirs. Now, they are accusing the television network of selling DVDs of the show without a proper license for the music. They say that CBS is relying on an invalid 1978 agreement that does not include DVD distribution within its scope; they allege that the network failed to agree to a new contract with the heirs to use the song or to stop publishing and promoting the DVDs. They say that the network has actually expanded its use of the music by licensing the series for online distribution on Amazon, iTunes and other digital distribution networks.

In their lawsuit, filed in a federal court in California, the heirs are asking for an injunction that would stop CBS from continuing to use the music without receiving a new license. In addition, they are seeking damages due to what they claim is unlawful infringement of their copyright.

Copyright can be particularly important for people in creative fields or companies aiming to use creative works. An intellectual property attorney may work with clients to ensure that they are protected and pursue those responsible for infringement.

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