You better watch out. Yeah, you better cry. You better pout. I'm telling you why. Because Santa Claus may not be comin' to town anytime soon if the estate of songwriter J. Fred Coots has anything to say about it.
The Coots family is heaping some coal over the holiday season and has filed a federal lawsuit against EMI, the current publisher of "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town."
They want their holiday cheer back -- and the money that goes with it.
In fact, they want to reassign that cheer to Warner Bros., according to the Hollywood Reporter. But EMI doesn't think it will happen.
You see, the author of a copyrighted work has a right of termination. If Scrooge tricks him into handing over his copyright, he has a chance to get it back. Depending on the date of the transfer, that chance appears either 35 or 56 years later.
EMI believes that authors can only exercise their right of termination once, explains the Hollywood Reporter. They can't rescind contracts every 35 years. J. Fred Coots is said to have terminated a grant of rights in 1981.
But his family says that termination wasn't even worth a lump of coal. They believe it was invalid because Coots failed to notify the Copyright Office.
A court will have to decide who is legally in the right, but you can decide who is being a Grinch. Have J. Fred Coots' heirs made their way onto the naughty list this year? Or should EMI give in to the holiday spirit so Santa Claus can come to town?
- EMI sued over rights in Santa Claus Is Comin To Town (CMU)
- Transfer of Copyright (FindLaw)
- Of Copyrights and Caselaw: Steinbeck Heirs Denied Cert (FindLaw's Supreme Court Blog)