Scenes from the Dollywood Christmas Parade 2016.
Submitted by Dollywood
Good grief, Dolly Parton!
The copyright owners for the “Charlie Brown Christmas” theme song sued Dollywood, the theme park named for the East Tennessee country superstar, on Tuesday in federal court for copyright violation, claiming the park illegally used the song in live Christmas shows for more than a decade.
The show, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” tells the story of how “a family finds its own Christmas miracle with the help of a mysterious, white-bearded stranger,” according to the Dollywood website. “Dancing mice, singing sailors and a young girl’s belief in Santa highlight this endearing tale.”
The show has included performances of the classic “Christmas Time is Here,” written by Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi for the Emmy Award-winning CBS special “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which first aired in 1965.
Just one problem, according to Los Angeles-based Lee Mendelson Film Productions, the copyright holder: No one from Dollywood secured permission to perform the song, even after warnings from the firm’s attorneys last year. Use of a copyrighted song in a dramatic performance, such as a live show, requires specific rights and permission.
“At no point did plaintiff grant the defendant a license for use of the infringed work as part of the dramatic performance,” the lawsuit claims. “Despite notice, defendant has failed to obtain a license to exploit ‘Christmas Time is Here’ and has committed willful copyright infringement thereby. … Defendant has expressed an interest in using ‘Christmas Time is Here’ going forward, but has failed to pay plaintiff.”
Video clips of the show posted on YouTube suggest performances of the song date back at least as far as 2007, according to the lawsuit. Dollywood has denied using the song in last year’s performance, according to court records.
The lawsuit seeks damages of at least $150,000 for each performance of the song, plus attorneys’ fees.
Dollywood’s website lists performances of the show set to begin in November.
A Dollywood spokesman didn’t immediately respond to calls about the lawsuit. The park’s attorneys haven’t filed a response, and no hearing has been set.
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