Anyone with half an interest in the hit CBS television show, TheBig Bang Theory, can likely recite the lyrics of the sweet children’s song that comforts Sheldon (played by Jim Parsons) when he is sick. “Soft Kitty” is a simple nursery rhyme that sings like a lullaby. “Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur. Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr.” Currently, a lawsuit is pending regarding copyright infringement of “Soft Kitty.”
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The very simplicity of the “Soft Kitty” song is in itself soothing. Not so soothing, however, is the controversy that has recently grown over the show’s use of the lyrics. A related report by The Inquisitr states that a pair of sisters have come forward with the claim that their mother, Edith Newlin, wrote the lyrics to “Soft Kitty” in 1933. The only variance between TheBig Bang Theory version, and that of Newlin, is that the poem originally began “warm kitty, soft kitty”, instead of the other way around.
Edith Newlin’s daughters, Ellen Newlin Chase and Margaret Chase Perry, have brought a lawsuit against several entities such as CBS, Willis Music, Fox, Turner Broadcasting, and Warner Brothers. The “Soft Kitty” lawsuit states that Edith Newlin, who passed away in 2004, left the rights to the poem to her daughters, who have been unaware that the song has become a huge hit on TheBig Bang Theory. According to Variety, Ellen Newlin Chase stumbled upon the allegedly illegal usage of her mother’s words in August of 2014.
The sisters claim their mother gave usage permission one time, in 1937, when “Soft Kitty” appeared in the book “Songs of the Nursery School” by Willis Music Company, who copyrighted the song in 1937 as well as 1964.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that “Soft Kitty” is not unfamiliar to Australians, who have heard the tune from Patty Biscoe’s album, 50 Favourite Nursery Rhymes, entitled “Warm Kitty”, as well as on the ABC show, Play School. If permission was only given once, in 1937, then would this usage not also be copyright infringement?
It is interesting to note that, though the lawsuit names several companies as defendants, only one seems to have truly misused the copyright. Warner Brothers, the company that produces The Big Bang Theory, reportedly went through the correct channels by obtaining rights to “Soft Kitty” from Willis Music, who were believed to own the copyright in 2007. Therefore, it seems logical to assume that Willis Music is at fault for releasing the rights to a poem they legally did not own.
The show has used “Soft Kitty” a total of eight times. The following video clip shows a confused Sheldon as Penny turns the tables on him, pleading with him to sing the lullaby to her. Typically, Sheldon is at the receiving end of the comforting tune. The result is hilarious.
The quirky nature of Sheldon Cooper is complex, as he is undeniably a genius, with the attitude of a child. Sheldon’s obsessive need to hear “Soft Kitty” when he is sick not only suits his personality, but lends it another depth as well.
The “Soft Kitty” lawsuit demands damages based on the allegedly stolen copyright, usage of the song in the show as well as on t-shirts and other marketing products. What do you think about the “Soft Kitty” lawsuit? Should Warner Brothers be liable? What will this mean for the show?
[Image by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP]