Sadly for CBS, there is no “Bazinga” coming at the end of this story. CBS was sued by the creators of “Soft Kitty,” a lullaby frequently heard on The Big Bang Theory, for allegedly using the song and then producing merchandise bearing the copyrighted phrase without permission.
softkittyIn Season 1, Episode 11 entitled “The Pancake Butter Anomaly”, a sick Sheldon begs Penny to rub some Vicks VapoRub on his chest and demands that she sing “Soft Kitty” to him, a song his mother always sang to him when he was sick. The lyrics are as follows: “Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; Sleepy kitty, happy kitty, purr! purr! purr!” And magically Sheldon is soothed. The song became such a hit that has been sung in eight more episodes and CBS began distributing merchandise bearing the name of the song and lyrics. The CBS Store sells such products as t-shirts, pajamas and even a watch that bear the name “Soft Kitty” or the lyrics.
In a lawsuit filed last week, plaintiffs claim that Edwin Newlin was the author of the original poem that was created in 1933 and first published as a musical piece 1937. The copyright to the poem is now owned by the heirs of the deceased Newlin. In 2007, the production company for The Big Bang Theory, WB, approached the publisher of the book seeking permission to use the musical version of the song. The book publisher gave permission, without consulting Newlin, to use the song via a licensing agreement but the heirs of Newlin claim that they still own the copyright to the song and not the book publisher. It even states in the licensing agreement that Newlin is the author and owner of the song but plaintiffs claim that all parties purposefully or recklessly ignored this statement about ownership.
Plaintiffs have sued for copyright infringement and want CBS enjoined from further using the song, damages and attorneys’ fees. CBS and WB will no doubt place blame on the book publisher claiming that they thought they properly licensed the rights to the song. One big problem for the plaintiffs, the statute of limitations for copyright infringement is three years from discovery or the time it should have reasonably been discovered. Since this song was first used on The Big Bang Theory in 2008, why did the plaintiffs wait over seven years to file this case? Either way, Leonard might have to start looking for a new lullaby to sooth the fussy Sheldon going forward.