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Bryan E. Kuhn
Counselor at Law, P.C.
Business & Employment Law Attorney

CBS sued for infringing rights to ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ theme

Previous generations in Colorado enjoyed “The Andy Griffith Show” on television. To this day, the iconic whistling theme music for the show remains recognizable. Fans of the show may be interest to learn that the heirs currently holding the rights to the music, composed by Earle Hagen and Herbert Spencer in the 1950s, have filed a federal lawsuit against CBS for infringing on the music’s copyright.

According to court filings, the plaintiffs accuse the television network of using the music without a valid licensing agreement. CBS has produced DVDs of the classic television series and appears to be basing its use of the music on an agreement between Viacom and Mayberry Enterprises signed in 1978. Due to the age of this agreement, it did not cover distribution for newer mediums like the DVD format. Additionally, the plaintiffs complain that the network has created distribution agreements with streaming services outside the purview of the 1978 document.

CBS has yet to provide a public comment about the lawsuit. The heirs of the music composers have asked the court to place an injunction on the use of the theme by CBS and order the network to pay damages for copyright infringement.

Advances in digital distribution technology sometimes trigger disputes about the licensing of intellectual property. A person who suspects that a licensing agreement does not authorize another party’s current use of copyrighted material may consult an attorney. After examining the contract, an attorney may provide insights about business litigation and develop a strategy for defending the person from infringement. An attorney might send a cease-and-desist letter, negotiate a new agreement that resolves the problem or file a lawsuit.

Source: Deadline, “‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Theme Song Is Subject Of Legal Dispute“, Bruce Haring, May 24, 2019

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