Judge Tosses Song-Stealing Suit Against Real-Life 'Glee' Show Choir

Expecting the show choir's booster club to have control over song choice is like expecting football boosters to call plays, according to the decision.
Courtesy of Photofest

The boosters club of the high school show choir that's widely considered the inspiration for Glee's fictional New Directions isn't liable if the group used music without properly licensing it, according to a California federal judge.

Tresona Multimedia in July sued the Burbank High School Vocal Music Association Boosters Club, the group's director Brett Carroll and several other individuals for copyright infringement.

Carroll was removed from the suit in December after U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson found the high school music teacher was protected by qualified immunity in his role as a public employee.

Both Carroll and the booster club filed third-party complaints against the man who arranged the music at issue, Josh Greene and his company Squareplay Entertainment. Greene has denied responsibility and asserted a plethora of affirmative defenses, including fair use.

Now, the boosters are off the hook in Tresona's suit. Wilson found there was no evidence the club engaged in any infringement and granted summary judgment to all claims without reaching the issue of fair use. (Read it in full here.)

"Tresona suggested that the Boosters Club could be held liable for direct infringement due to an alleged 'conspiracy' between the Boosters Club, Josh Greene, and Brett Carroll, in which they created a system where no individual party would be responsible for obtaining the proper licenses, and thus (according to Tresona) they are all directly liable," writes Wilson. "Regardless of the legal feasibility of this claim, there is simply no evidence to support it. There is no evidence that the relevant parties ever discussed creating such a system, and further no evidence the Boosters Club even knew infringing activity was occurring."

Wilson also dismissed the claims of contributory and vicarious copyright infringement.

"The Boosters Club was indisputably not part of any decision-making process," writes Wilson. "To find that the Boosters Club exercised control over Greene and Carroll would be analogous to finding that a high school football team's boosters club could tell the coach what plays to run."

An Arizona state court earlier this month dismissed a similar lawsuit filed by Tresona against Carroll and the boosters on jurisdictional grounds.