CBS Sues YouTuber for Posting Episodes of 'The Andy Griffith Show'

The Andy Griffith Show - Still - H - 2016

CBS has filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against a YouTube channel for posting 16 episodes of the classic 1960s series The Andy Griffith Show online.

The complaint, filed Thursday in New York federal court, claims that Cartoon Channel garnered some 2 million views from the shows posted on the video-sharing platform. Named in the lawsuit is Edward Heldman III, who is the founder and president of ComedyMX, which runs the channel.

The episodes at issue in the suit fell into the public domain in the '90s because the copyright-renewal application was rejected for being filed too late and, according to the suit, that's one of the reasons Heldman thinks his posting them was legitimate.

However, CBS attorney Jonathan Zavin argues that just because episodes 80 to 95 aren't registered themselves, that doesn't mean they are wholly unprotected. The show, which starred Andy Griffith, Don Knotts and Ron Howard, ran on CBS from 1960 to 1968.

Zavin argues that, because CBS holds valid and existing copyrights for the first 79 episodes of the series, the "copyrighted characters and numerous other original creative elements" that appeared in those episodes would still be protected in the middle episodes.

"Accordingly, the newly-added elements, and only the newly-added elements, of these Middle Episodes which did not previously appear in the first 79 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show (which remain protected by statutory copyright) have fallen into the public domain in the United States," he writes.

According to the complaint, Heldman has argued that the channel's exploitation of the episodes is not infringing because not only are the episodes in the public domain, but they are also "remastered" and therefore should be considered derivative works.

CBS is seeking an injunction and either actual damages plus any profits Heldman made from posting the episodes or statutory damages, which range from $750 to $150,000 per infringement. Here CBS is citing 79 instances, so Heldman could be on the hook for up to $11.8 million if he's found liable.