Hollywood Docket: Real 'Glee' Show Choir Director Wants Out of Legal Battle

Glee S01 Still - Photofest - H 2016
Courtesy of Photofest

Glee S01 Still - Photofest - H 2016

Glee fans will never know how Will Schuester would have responded to a lawsuit against William McKinley High's New Directions, but the real-life show choir director from the school that inspired the show says that if the group used songs without licensing them, it wasn't his fault.

Burbank Show Choirs, vocal music teacher Brett Carroll and several members of the choir's booster club were sued in July for allegedly using arrangements without paying to license them. Four songs are at issue: "Magic," "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," "Hotel California" and "Don't Phunk With My Heart."

On Monday, Carroll filed a motion for summary judgment against Tresona, asserting several affirmative defenses. Among those arguments, Carroll says that Tresona lacks standing with respect to three of the four songs at issue, that the claim involving "Magic" is time-barred and that he is covered by qualified immunity. 

"The only capacity in which he has taken any action with respect to the allegations in this case is as a high school music teacher — a public employee, and he has not violated any clearly established right," writes attorney Scott Danforth in the motion. "Moreover, Carroll did not choose these songs or make the arrangements in question — these functions were performed by arranger and third party defendant Josh Greene." (Read the full motion here.)

Carroll in August filed a third-party complaint against Squareplay Entertainment and its principal, Greene, for indemnity and breach of contract. Carroll claims Squareplay was paid more than $100,000 to create arrangements for the school, it chose to include the songs at issue in Tresona's suit and it represented that any required licenses or permissions had been or would be obtained.

"Because of these representations and or implied assurances, Carroll believed that the Burbank High School vocal music program was permitted to perform the Arrangements, and that any and all necessary permissions and licenses had been obtained," states the complaint. The school's vocal music booster club filed a similar complaint in September. In response to Carroll's suit, Squareplay denied responsibility and asserted 30 affirmative defenses.

A hearing on the summary judgment motion is set for Dec. 19.

In other entertainment legal news:

— Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio, two singers in The Four Seasons, are clear of a 2008 copyright lawsuit that alleges they ripped off their own life story for the Jersey Boys musical. The widow of journalist Rex Woodard, who was ghostwriting bandmember Tommy DeVito's never-published autobiography, claimed her husband's book was used as source material for the play without permission. After the lower court granted summary judgment to certain defendants, the 9th Circuit overturned the ruling, sending the case back down to the district level for trial — but, during said trial, Valli and Gaudio moved for a judgment by the court as a matter of law. That brings us to the Nov. 17 decision, in which the court found sufficient evidence was not presented at trial for a reasonable jury to find Valli or Gaudio infringed on the rights in the unpublished autobiography. U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones also found there was no evidence presented to support a willful infringement finding against any of the defendants. "Tommy DeVito's failure to object to any portion of the Jersey Boys script that may have been copied from the Work either before or after public performances began, after having given access to the Work for the purpose of helping write the script, not only strongly implies a license (a separate issue) but also obviates any claim that [the script writers] had reason to believe that any copying was wrongful," writes Jones. Jurors are currently on break from deliberating whether additional defendants are liable for infringement until after the Thanksgiving holiday. 

— Wild Bunch has won a $760,000 arbitration award against Worldview Entertainment in a dispute over profits from Wish I Was Here, according to a court filing affirming the award. Worldview sued Wild Bunch in September 2015, claiming it was owed hundreds of thousands of dollars of the film's proceeds — but Wild Bunch argued it was holding the funds to offset money owed by Worldview in connection with two other films, The Search and Jimmy P. The arbitrator's decision, of course, is confidential, but it was clearly in Wild Bunch's favor. The court also awarded an additional $39,000 in prejudgment interest, as well as post-judgment interest accruing from Nov. 21 until the award has been paid in full.

— Lucy Popkin has been made a partner of Peikoff Mahan Law Office, a New York-based firm that represents clients across film, television, theater and publishing. Popkin is a Stanford Law and Duke University graduate who joined the firm in 2010, coming from Paul Weiss. “Michael and I could not be prouder to promote Lucy to partner — she has been instrumental in our growth and her expertise and fantastic reputation in the industry has made her an invaluable member of this team," said name partner Jodi Peikoff in an announcement. "We look forward to the future with her in this much deserved role.”