Did Sheldon Have the Right to Purr-Purr-Purr?
It has been a year since the buzz about “Soft Kitty” began for The Big Bang Theory fans. The buzz, unfortunately, was not good news. The song was being brought under inspection for violation of copyright laws. It was a blow that hit at the heart of every Big Bang fan, but was it a legitimate claim?
Origin of the Song
A nursery rhyme titled “Warm Kitty” was written by Edith Newlin in 1933. Willis Publishing got permission to print the poem in their book of nursery rhymes and gave her credit in the front of the book. The company then copyrighted it and got one for Edith Newlin as well.
“Warm Kitty” to “Soft Kitty”
Warner Bros. bought permission from Willis to use the song as Soft Kitty. The lyrics were changed around and the song was given credit to Bill Prady, not Edith Newlin. This is an important point to Newlin’s daughters when they sued Fox.
Another issue might arise when asking if the two songs are similar enough to be classified as infringement. Well, I know that when writing a paper, simply switching the order of words still counts as copying another’s work. Certainly, Fox would not have gone through the process of buying rights if it did not intend to use the lyrics.
Originally, Willis Publishing would have been saved by the 25-year copyright law. When they renewed it, the Newlin’s copyright would not legally have been renewed. But the copyright law change in 1978 extended all former copyrights to 75 years, which, in turn, extended the Newlin copyright along with the company’s copyright.
Fortunately, Fox probably is safe due to a clause where they state any copyright problems were Willis’ problem. So the show would remain unaffected, except perhaps if they were unable to keep using the song.
Extent of Damages
To many people, it seems that it is really no big deal. The sisters did not raise the argument until years after the show premiered the song. They had had no idea that the show existed or that it had brought their mother’s song to international acclaim.
Look at it this way, The Big Bang Theory has made thousands, perhaps even millions in merchandise sold with Soft Kitty on it, not to mention the episodes. And the creator of the song has gotten nothing. Now, granted it is the daughters, not the original maker of the song. But the copyright laws are in place to protect people from situations like this.
What do you think? Do you believe the sisters are entitled to compensation for a song created by their mother?