Warm Kitty

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"Warm Kitty" is a children's song, popularized by the characters Sheldon and Penny in the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory where it is rendered as "Soft Kitty".[1] According to claims in a copyright lawsuit, the words to "Warm Kitty" were written by Edith Newlin.[2][3][4] The original version is a very popular Polish traditional lullaby "Wlazł kotek na płotek", a folk tune from the 18th century.[5]

In The Big Bang Theory the song is described by Sheldon as a song sung by his mother when he is ill. The lyrics on the Big Bang Theory are: "soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur! Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr!"

Versions of the song have been released by Australian children's performer Patsy Biscoe, and by the long-running ABC children's programme Play School which predates Big Bang Theory and has the lyrics reversed, instead going: "Warm kitty, soft kitty, little ball of fur. Sleepy kitty, happy kitty, purr purr purr." The song remains part of Play School's catalogue of children’s songs regularly performed on the program: the show's presenters occasionally perform the song for their young viewers.

By Christmas 2011, "Soft Kitty" merchandise—such as a plush stuffed singing cat, or T-shirt with the The Big Bang Theory version of the lyrics—could be purchased.[6][7][better source needed]

Copyright Lawsuit[edit]

In December 2015, the heirs of Edith Newlin filed a lawsuit against the various companies associated with The Big Bang Theory,[8] claiming that the words and music to the song appeared in the book Songs for the Nursery School published in 1937 by Willis Music,[4] based on a poem by Newlin;[2][3] the copyright to the book was renewed in 1964.[9] The website for Willis Music states:

"In 1937 we published a book called Songs for the Nursery School and we sold tens of thousands of copies. It is a hardbound book of over 150 songs for children. The book was written by Laura Pendleton MacCarteney. In that book on page 27 is 'Warm Kitty'.... Warner Brothers and I worked together to secure the rights for the show The Big Bang Theory and they have been using the song ever since."[10]

The suit by Newlin's daughters, on the other hand, claimed that they held the copyright. Furthermore, they alleged that they did not authorize the use of the lyrics, that Willis Music did not have permission to authorize others to use the lyrics, and that the lyrics had been used not only in the television series, but on various kinds of program-associated merchandise without proper permission.[2]

On March 27, 2017, US District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald dismissed the suit, holding that the plaintiffs had not shown that they held a copyright on their mother's lyrics.[11] Applying section 24 of the Copyright Act of 1909,[12] a provision that Buchwald characterized as "hardly a model of clarity", the court found that Willis Music's renewal in 1964 of its registration for Songs for the Nursery School did not also renew Newlin's copyright for "Warm Kitty".[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Seidman, Robert (16 November 2010). "CBS.com Launches "Soft Kitty" Contest Inspired by Popular Song From CBS Hit 'The Big Bang Theory'". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Newmeister, Larry (December 28, 2015). "Late Teacher's Heirs Sue Producers of 'The Big Bang Theory,' Alleging Copyright Infringement". U.S. News and World Report (online ed.). Associated Press. Retrieved 2015-12-28. 
  3. ^ a b Padnani, Amisha (December 29, 2015). "‘Big Bang Theory’ Is Accused of Stealing ‘Soft Kitty’ Lyrics". The New York Times (online ed.). Retrieved 29 December 2015. 
  4. ^ a b McCartney, Laura Pendleton (Ed.) (1937). Songs for the Nursery School (Imperial 662 ed.). Cincinnati, OH, US: Willis Music Company. p. 21. OCLC 1024186. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Biblioteka Polskiej Piosenki". 
  6. ^ Elavsky, Cindy (25 November 2011). "Celebrity Extra". The Dearborn Heights Times-Herald. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "The Big Bang Theory Singing Soft Kitty Plush out now!". The Big Bang Theory.com. 2011. Retrieved December 27, 2011. Singing Soft Kitty Plush out now! 
  8. ^ Chase, et al. v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., et al., No. 15-10063 (S.D.N.Y. filed Dec. 28, 2015).
  9. ^ "Music: January–June 1964". Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third Series, Volume 18, Part 5, Number 1. Washington: Copyright OfficeThe Library of Congress. 1966. p. 829. LCCN 06035347. Songs for the Nursery School; w & m Laura Pendleton MacCarteney, illus. by Peter Perrine. © 21Jun37; EP65337. Laura Pendleton MacCarteney (A); 22Jun64; R339640 
  10. ^ "Soft Kitty - Where does it come from?". Willis Music. 5 May 2015. Retrieved January 1, 2016. 
  11. ^ a b Stempel, Jonathan (March 29, 2017). "Lawsuit claiming 'Big Bang Theory' stole 'Soft Kitty' is dismissed" (online ed.). Reuters. Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  12. ^ Chase, et al. v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., et al., No. 15-10063, Memorandum and Order Granting Motion to Dismiss (S.D.N.Y. March 27, 2017), at 4-11.