High Court Asked to Review 'Santa Claus' Heirs' Song Rights

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

May 2 — The “Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town” composer's heirs should not get another chance to renegotiate licensing rights for the song, according to a petition filed May 2 with the Supreme Court.

EMI Feist Catalog Inc.—a Sony subsidiary—claims rights in the holiday song based on a 1951 contract with legendary songwriter J. Frederick Coots.

Coots's heirs, however, say that a provision of federal copyright law gives them the right to cancel prior contracts and seek a better deal.

In October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said that the heirs can execute what's known as “termination rights.” Baldwin v. EMI Feist Catalog, Inc., 805 F.3d 18, 116 U.S.P.Q.2d 1273 (2d Cir. 2015).

But EMI's petition said that termination rights have already been executed once, in 1981, and that the Copyright Act doesn't give the heirs a third bite at the apple.

Pryor Cashman LLP filed the petition. A response is due June 1. Carey Rodriguez Milian Gonya LLP represented Baldwin before the Second Circuit.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at amazumdar@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek in Washington at mwilczek@bna.com

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