CBS Sued Over 63-Year-Old Song Used in 'Family Ties'
Here's a little trip down TV memory lane...
Kling Corporation, the rights-holder of the theme song to TV's first hit -- the 1940s variety show titled Texaco Star Theatre featuring Milton Berle -- has just filed a lawsuit against CBS over an episode of Family Ties that first aired on March 28, 1985.
The episode showed character Steven Keaton taking a nostalgic trip to his childhood and included the song, "We are the Men of Texaco," the theme to that Milton Berle show. The producers secured a license for the song when it first aired on television, but the agreement allegedly didn't provide any rights for the show once it came out on video and DVDs. Twenty five years later, Kling Corp now says its copyrighted song has been infringed.
Thanks to statute of limitations, if Kling is successful in its claim, it will only be able to collect damages on the the past three years of DVD sales on Family Ties. Kling had demanded a license fee of $19,000 from producers, but now are after statutory damages for willful infringement -- which means up to $150,000 per infringement.
The lawsuit perhaps highlights how few in Hollywood anticipated new revenue streams back in the old days, sometimes failing to lock up rights in agreements. Still, a dispute involving a 63-year-old song in a 26-year-old TV show? Don't see that every day.