Music Law Weekly Case Update for Music Industry Executives - February 8, 2012


Author Rex Woodward wrote a biography (the Work) of defendant Thomas Gaetano DeVito, a founding member of the musical group the Four Seasons, based on various interviews and discussions he had with DeVito over several years. Woodward and DeVito agreed that they would be considered co-authors of the Work and would share equally in the profits. Woodward died in 1991. DeVito registered the Work with the U.S. Copyright Office in his name alone. DeVito later granted defendants Frankie Valli and Robert Gaudio an exclusive, irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, and assignable license to freely use and adapt certain materials, including the Work, into a musical. Under the license agreement, DeVito would receive 20 percent of royalties received by Valli and Gaudio in exploiting the Work. Valli and Gaudio sub-licensed the Work to the writers and producers of Jersey Boys, who eventually adapted the Work into the successful Broadway play Jersey Boys.

Woodward’s widow, plaintiff Donna Corbello, sued DeVito, Valli, Gaudio and others involved with the writing, production, and distribution of the play Jersey Boys for, among other things, copyright infringement (under the copyright laws of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada), vicarious copyright infringement, and contributory copyright infringement. Corbello also had the certificate of registration for the Work changed in 2009 to add Woodward’s name as a co-author of the Work. The court granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants except DeVito, leaving only claims against DeVito for accounting and breach of contract for trial.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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