Entertainment Law: No ‘soft kitty’ to put Sheldon to sleep?

“Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur. Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr.”

All Big Bang Theory fans know that this lullaby is the only thing that can calm Sheldon down to a sleepy state. However, what they might not be aware of is that it now has become the subject of a lawsuit, recently filed by Ellen Newlin Chase and Margaret Chase Perry, daughters of Edith Newlin, the original author of “Soft Kitty”.

Edith wrote the nursery rhyme in 1937 when working at a kindergarten school in Alstead, New Hampshire, and the show’s producers discovered it in a book called Songs for the Nursery School, first published by Kentucky based Willis Music in 1937. The daughters claim they were not consulted for permission by Willis Music, despite the fact that Edith owned its original copyright and passed it down to them in her will when she passed away at the age of 99 in 2004.

Warner Bros, Chuck Lorre Productions, CBS, Turner Broadcasting and Fox are among those named in the lawsuit filed on the 28th of December, 2015. “The Soft Kitty lyrics are among the best-known and most popular aspects of The Big Bang Theory,” the claim states. “They have become a signature and emblematic feature of the show and a central part of the show’s promotion.”

The rhyme has not only been featured eight times through the show since 2008, it has also been used on merchandise such as t-shirts, mouse pads, phone covers fridge magnets and air fresheners, and has sometimes been wrongly credited to Bill Prady, a principal at Chuck Lorre Productions.

In the suit, Newlin Chase and Chase Perry, both in their 70s, are seeking for damages, legal costs and an immediate injunction on the use of Soft Kitty.

The show has gathered an enormous fan base since its inception, winning multiple awards and accolades. Owing to this success the stars of the show were given a huge pay-raise and will now be earning $1 million for every episode, matching the Friends’ pay package penny for penny. It would be very interesting indeed to see how Leonard, Penny, Amy or anyone who has the misfortune of taking care of Sheldon, when he is sick, would put him to sleep now.

Authored by Chirag Ravishankar.

Contributed with the support of the Entertainment Law Division of BananaIP Counsels.

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