According to the Associated Press, the heirs to a New Hampshire writer have filed a lawsuit against the producers of CBS's The Big Bang Theory, claiming copyright violation.
One of The Big Bang Theory's best known and most famous reoccurring elements is the singing of the "Soft Kitty" lullaby to comfort the character Sheldon Cooper, but the use of the song could have landed the show in trouble.
Edith Newlin, who passed away in 2004, adapted a traditional English folk tune, and rewrote the lyrics into the poem "Warm Kitty" in 1930s. Now Newlin's daughters are claiming in their lawsuit that The Big Bang Theory used their mother's lyrics without buying the rights.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from The Big Bang Theory producers and distributors, claiming that the "Soft Kitty" lyrics have been used in at least eight episodes of the series since March 2008. In addition to the use in the TV series, the lawsuit also says that the lyrics have been used in a variety of merchandise such as clothing, phone covers, magnets and plush toys. The lawsuit states that:
The Soft Kitty Lyrics are among the best-known and most popular aspects of The Big Bang Theory. They have become a signature and emblematic feature of the show and a central part of the show's promotion.
Despite The Big Bang Theory version of the song being called "Soft Kitty," and the Edith Newlin song being called "Warm Kitty," the two appear almost identical in their lyrics, with the exception of swapping the order of four words (Warm and soft, and sleep and happy).
According to Newlin's daughters lawsuit, back in 2007 Warner Bros. Entertainment and the series other producers sought permission to use the lyrics from Willis Music Co., who had published them in a 1937 book called "Songs for the Nursery School." Even though Willis Music had authorized the use of the lyrics, they did not seek permission from Newlin's daughters to do so, despite the book itself making it clear that Newlin was the author of the lyrics, and also owned the copyright.
Warner Bros. has yet to comment on the lawsuit, the AP said.