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‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ theme copyright holders sue Dollywood

Many people in California immediately recognize the melody for “Christmas Time is Here.” Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi composed this theme music for the CBS special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that first broadcasted in 1965. The copyright holder, Lee Mendelson Film Productions, has filed a lawsuit against Dollywood, alleging that the theme park used the iconic theme music without license in multiple live theater Christmas productions. Court papers detail the claim that Dollywood show producers ignored repeated warnings that they were using the music without permission.

The use of copyrighted material in live public performances requires the copyright holder to grant specific permission for use. According to the lawsuit, Dollywood committed willful copyright infringement as they never sought permission despite being given notice to do so. The plaintiff provided evidence that Dollywood had used the music without permission for years. A 2007 YouTube video clip of a Dollywood show included the music.

A representative from Dollywood denied that the organization used the music during the 2018 Christmas show. The theme park has not provided any additional statements regarding the lawsuit. The copyright holder has petitioned the court for a minimum of $150,000 in damages for each unlicensed performance.

Companies and individuals often have a significant monetary interest in protecting copyrights, trademarks and patents from unauthorized use. A person involved in an intellectual property dispute should strongly consider obtaining legal representation. An attorney would investigate the ownership of the disputed material and take actions to protect the person’s rights or negotiate a settlement that compensates a rights holder for use. If litigation appears necessary, then an attorney may prepare court filings and manage a trial. Make an appointment at Wang Intellectual Property to develop a strategy for defending your intellectual property.

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