“Jersey Boys” producers didn’t violate copyright act, 9th Circuit says

Case concerned whether musical producers had fair use of a clip from “The Ed Sullivan Show”

There’s always drama on Broadway. Luckily for the producers of the long-running hit musical “Jersey Boys,” some recent legal drama has come to an end.

A three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit ruled yesterday that Dodger Productions Inc., the producers of “Jersey Boys”—a historical drama about the 1960s band The Four Seasons—did not violate any copyrights by incorporating a seven-second clip from “The Ed Sullivan Show” into their show without a license. SOFA Entertainment Inc., which owns the copyrights to “The Ed Sullivan Show,” sued Dodger after SOFA’s founder attended a “Jersey Boys” performance and saw the clip, which is from a 1966 episode and appears in the first act.

A district court called SOFA’s suit “objectively unreasonable” and awarded Dodger $155,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs. Yesterday, the 9th Circuit upheld the decision, saying Dodger had used the clip in a proper, historical context. The court also said the lower court’s award was appropriate because such lawsuits could have “a chilling effect on creativity.”

An attorney for Dodger said the 9th Circuit’s decision helps shine a light on fair use of works used in historical contexts.

Read Thomson Reuters for more about the decision.

For other InsideCounsel stories concerning fair use, read:

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Ashley Post

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