The producers of "Jersey Boys" have prevailed in a lawsuit alleging that the use of a seven-second clip from "The Ed Sullivan Show" was copyright infringement.
On Monday, an appellate court in California upheld a lower court's decision to award $155,000 in attorney fees to defendants Dodger Productions and Dodgers Theatricals, Ltd.
In the hit Broadway production that dramatizes the rise and eventual breakup of '60s rock 'n' roll band The Four Seasons, the quick clip of Ed Sullivan introducing the foursome is used as a transition to a live rendition of the song they performed on the late-night show. Afterward, the actor portraying Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio reflects on the band's career in comparison to the Beatles.
SOFA Entertainment, Inc., who filed the appeal in February, claimed the defendant could not justify its unlicensed use of the clip as “fair use," but Judge Stephen S. Trott ruled the company "is mistaken."
"By using the clip for its biographical significance, Dodger has imbued it with new meaning and did so without usurping whatever demand there is for the original clip," Trott wrote. "Dodger is entitled to prevail on its fair use defense as a matter of law."
And since SOFA previously tried and failed to prove copyright infringement of another property, Judge Trott believes the company should be known better.
"In light of the education SOFA received as the plaintiff in Elvis Presley Enterprises, SOFA should have known from the outset that its chances of success in this case were slim to none," Trott concluded. "Therefore, we conclude that the district court’s award of attorney fees to Dodger was justified."