Jersey Boys decision reversed on appeal

March 2015


Theatre, film, book publishing


The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a decision in a copyright lawsuit against two members of the Four Seasons and the developers of the group’s Tony Award winning biographical musical “Jersey Boys.” Donna Corbello sued Frankie Valli and fellow “Four Seasons” band member Robert Gaudio in 2011 for copyright infringement, claiming the musical was based in part on an unpublished autobiography of Four Seasons band member Thomas DeVito that her late husband Rex Woodard ghost-wrote. Although initially registered in DeVito’s sole name, Corbello amended the US copyright registration so Woodard and Devito were co-owners. She said she deserved to share in the profits from the musical’s success.  The appellate court said there was contradictory evidence about whether Valli and Gaudio executed an agreement with DeVito to produce the play in time to avoid termination of their ownership rights but that “a co-owner of a copyright must account to other co-owners for any profits he earns from licensing or use of the copyright.” The case will now be sent back to Nevada federal court to determine if the musical infringes the autobiography, and Corbello is entitled to royalties from  the theatre show which has run since 2005 and the Clint Eastwood film of 2014.

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