Given today's media landscape, it's hard for television shows to gain the sort of popularity that their predecessors did in decades past. The one show that has come closest to the notoriety of its network sitcom predecessors is The Big Bang Theory. GIven how fragmented viewing audiences are, the show is as close to a cultural touchstone as we may have, regularly topping the ratings and views on streaming services. But now TV's most popular sitcom finds itself in a copyright lawsuit over one of its songs.
Sisters Ellen Newlin Chase and Margaret Chase Perry filed a lawsuit against the various production and media companies associated with the show, including CBS and Warner Bros., over the lyrics to the song "Soft Kitty" that is regularly featured on the show. In the suit, the plaintiffs argue that the lyrics to the song featured on the show are nearly identical to those of a poem published by their mother Edith Newlin in a book entitled Songs for the Nursury School in 1937. The book was published by Willis Music, who , according to the suit, filed the book with the Copyright Office in 1937 and renewed the copyright in 1964.
According to the suit, Ellen Newlin Chase first learned of the show's use of the song in 2014 while doing research about her mother for an article.
The lawsuit allege that when seeking the rights to use the song for the show, producers entered into negotiations with only Willis Music, which didn't consult with either of the rights holders before giving permission, despite the fact that the book makes clear that Edith Newlin is the author and owner of the copyright. (Edith Newlin's copyright passed to her daughters upon her death in 2004.) The song has been used on the show multiple times since its inception, and the lyrics are featured on show merchandise.