Big Bang Theory 'Soft Kitty' Lullaby Now Source of Legal Woes

Turns out, this kitty’s got claws.

“Soft Kitty,” aka the lullaby that is Sheldon’s source of comfort on The Big Bang Theory, is at the center of a lawsuit against the CBS comedy recently filed by the lyricist’s daughters.

As reported by the Associated Press, Margaret Perry and Ellen Chase claim that the series is infringing on the copyright of a work by their mother, poet Edith Newlin, who died in 2004.

Newlin wrote “Warm Kitty” (“Warm kitty, soft kitty, little ball of fur; Happy kitty, sleepy kitty purr! purr! purr!”) in 1937, and Perry and Chase claim that the poem is the basis for Big Bang‘s “Soft Kitty” (“Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr! purr! purr!”).

“Warm Kitty” appeared in a children’s songbook in 1937. The music publisher that puts out the book tells our sister site Deadline it “properly and legally licensed the song to Warner Bros. for the TV series.”

Warner Bros. Television, which produces Big Bang, did not immediately respond to the AP’s request for comment.

“Soft Kitty” debuted on Big Bang in 2008 and has been sung on the show at least seven times since. Per the lawsuit, Chase became aware of the series’ lullaby in 2014 when a blog post talking about the tune came up while researching her mother’s history.

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61 Comments
  1. Daya says:

    I think Perry and Chase just want a piece of the monolithic BBT pie. I absolutely believe that WB properly licensed the song and these two are just moneygrubbers.

    • Oh you mean like everyone else on this show

      • Really? says:

        Oh, so, per “you”, people who make their living working on television shows are all money grubbers who don’t deserve to be paid and should just do what they do for free. Wow, jealous much? I bet if you were making quality money and others whined about it, you would say you deserved it. I do love me some hypocrites….

    • If their mom wrote it in 1937 I’m thinking they might be close to 80 maybe more…so maybe they really didn’t check it out…speaking of money grubbers, they sure could drop Penny and it wouldn’t affect the storyline at all…since she married complete waste on the show, collecting one million for each show and she is on maybe 5 minutes total…

      • Bob Riffle says:

        Jealous much ?b

      • Daya says:

        They’re doing so little with the marriage that I keep forgetting they’re married. Barely anything has changed. (shakes her head)

        I know they’re worried about disturbing Sheldon, but I don’t think any mental health experts would advocate tiptoeing around him, either. (I knew a psychologist who watches BBT and said he was definitely an aspie, but I don’t have contact with her anymore.)

        • LH86 says:

          Please don’t use terms like “aspie” to describe “a person with Aspergers Syndrome”. Language such as yours is derogatory and disrespectful and perpetuates stigmas.

          • Daya says:

            Considering almost everyone I’ve come across on the internet with Aspergers refers to themselves as an “Aspie”, you’re in the minority.

          • Daya says:

            Besides, where do you think I got it from? *I* certainly didn’t make it up! I got it from other people calling themselves that nickname. (Unless you’re trying to tell me it’s like the double-standard wherein blacks can call themselves the n-word, but no one else is permitted to. In that case, I cry BS.)

          • Korrelthe Zout says:

            I don’t like the term “aspie” and I never use it for my condition.
            “Ass Burgers” is a more playful term and I have no problem with using that.

      • robyn chatterson says:

        Really: What the heck , if the people who make the show says it is properly registered. Then it is. Also, if the song was written in 1937, give us a break. Another bunch of people trying to make it on someone elses backs. Also so why drop Penny. She must have signed a contract and that is that. Jealousy will get you no where.

    • John Beazley says:

      I agree that WB probably did license the song properly, but to say ‘I absolutely believe’ is going a bit far.

      • Jason says:

        How is saying “I absolutely believe” going too far? They didn’t say “it’s absolutely TRUE.” They said that their BELIEF is absolute. So, the absoluteness is to do with how they feel, not the facts in the case…

    • I’m wondering if “Smelly Cat” was also stolen by Friends. It is a much more heartrending and poignant expression that says “Hello, Kitty!” every time it is sung.

  2. Reba42 says:

    The actual song on the show says “happy kitty, sleepy kitty”.

  3. John NYC says:

    isnt their beef with the music publisher then?

    Fail.

    • Annie says:

      Likely yes, but it’s basic legal process to name several parties in a lawsuit. The music publisher is likely named in the suit and the plaintiff also added the network to cover their basis. If they didn’t and something came up during the proceeding that showed that the network *was* at fault and they didn’t name them, they would have a bigger legal issue to deal with.

  4. Lysh says:

    I can’t remember where I got it (probably Amazon), but I bought a onesie for a friend’s baby with this song/poem on it. Sounds like Newlin’s daughters’ decided they could possibly make bank once they learned their connection to the song.

  5. Gary says:

    The sisters need to bite it. Copyright infringement on a 98 year old song? Forget it.

    • David4 says:

      Well it’s a USA court and copyright laws are a joke so yeah they could actually win.

    • rarefied says:

      The copyright for the song expires in 2032. However, their beef is probably with the company that owns the rights to license it and not with the show itself. I’m guessing they’re hoping for some sort of settlement.

    • Jenni says:

      Did you fail maths in elementary school?

    • Phil Raymond says:

      That would be 78 years, not 98. But I agree with your premise. I think copyrights expire after 50 years.

      • Ric says:

        My understanding is copyright on music and literary works is 70 years from the end of the year in which the author died, not from when the piece was written.
        In this case Edith Newlin died in 2004, so copyright would expire end of 2074.

        This case will be interesting because it is alleged Willis Music did not get permission from the copyright owners (Newlin’s heirs) for the TV series in the first place, then subsequently the poem was used used in merchandising.

      • Znachki says:

        It’s complicated as to when exactly, depending on the original copyright date, and whether it was renewed by 1978. But no,it’s more than 50 years. We have the Disney folks to thank (to a great degree) for these ridiculously extended copyrights. They spent a lot of money to protect properties that would now be in the public domain.

  6. cadavra says:

    This is absolutely a nuisance suit. A signed contract (composer and publisher) is a signed contract. Warners could sent them a check as a good-faith gesture, but legally they ain’t entitled to jack squat.

  7. there’s a choir that is singing it during the Christmas holiday, I heard the kids sing it at least 6 different times… on tv

  8. Chett says:

    Everyone is out for the “buck”.

  9. Disassociated Mel says:

    Quit watching new productions when Shammy jumped the shark. Now it’s just a rehash of friends. Soon, they’ll repeat scripts.

    Bye!

    • DoctorWhoFanatic says:

      Umm, it’s reused jokes from FRIENDS for years, just adapting them to this set of characters. Why is this the breaking point? LOL

  10. Mike S says:

    someone looking to make an easy buck off something they didn’t even have anything to do with

  11. Chet Warnick says:

    Perry and Chase have way too much time on their hands OR their in it just for the money. The Big Bang Theory has been on since Sept. 24 2007 and has used that song ” Soft Kitty ” how many times ??? Funny it took them 7 years to realize this !!!!

    • justsomeguy says:

      What in the world makes you think they even watch the show? There’s billions and billions of people on the planet. They probably caught it by accident which is why they never knew. This happens all the time. Take a breather, relax, and calm down. You’re crusading for people that wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire.

  12. Copyright of written material is not proof of the author. Some of my work has been copyrighted by others.

  13. PJ says:

    So easy to sit here and try to figure out the issues without “all” the facts. Glad we have a court system that works most of the time…

  14. ala005 says:

    If the publisher gave the rights to the show, then the women should be going after the publisher. WB did their due diligence.

  15. cheryl says:

    Oh please! Just more about the money! And he words aren’t even the same

  16. Terry says:

    It’s pathetic the things people sue over anymore, everyone wants something for nothing

  17. Scott says:

    Get a Life…… bunch of money grabbers…. this is why we are doomed as a society with all this stupid lawsuits….. Be productive…. get a real job!

  18. Sean says:

    Its hardly a big legal dilemma, this is an easy one , so easy they can probably just phone it in. Good Lord, how is this news?

  19. J says:

    Margaret Perry and Ellen Chase need to understand that just because you (or your ancestors) create something, doesn’t mean you have the inherent right to make money off it. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr don’t control the publishing rights to The Beatles, never have and probably never will. unless the Edith Newlin estate still holds a portion of the publishing rights, her heirs have zero claim to any monetary gains made through deals with the current active publisher.

    • Don says:

      If you read the full article not just what is posted here. The music company that published it in a book of lullabies had it stated the mother is the author and holder of the copyright on the same page the it is printed on. So the children do have rights to that since no one paid them for the rights. Unlike Paul and Ringo who didn’t own any of the rights

    • mooshki says:

      Wrong and wrong. They did have the publishing rights but lost them, and the rights of the songs he wrote will start to revert back to him in 2018. “…songs written before 1978 revert back to the songwriter after 56 years.”

    • 3dpenguin says:

      Actually Ringo owns the rights to his songs and the Harrison estate owns the rights to Harrison’s songs. It is only Lennon/McCartney that signed the publishing and distribution rights to their songs to Norther Songs LTD, and those are set to revert back to the original holders in the near future.

  20. Mike Paul says:

    I can see a money-grubbing job here: watch TV, note any song use, track down the legitimacy of the use. One good find every once in a while might make it worthwhile…

  21. Peggielee says:

    They should be proud

  22. Really? Give me a break. What a sweet song for poor Sheldon! Meow, meow!

  23. mstrainjr says:

    They’re just looking to make money off their dead mother. I can’t find an original musical version of this song anywhere, just covers of it.

    Are there any damages? Can they prove that they’ve lost money somehow?

    I didn’t even know this song existed until I saw it on Big Bang Theory.

    Oh, and by the way, the tune of the song was taken from another song called “Little bird, have you heard….”

  24. Gail says:

    Per ASCAP there are two listings for the song and the mother is not listed as an author of the song.

    1.LULLABY Work ID: 881179714
    ISWC: T9035281540 Total Controlled by ASCAP: 100%
    WritersIPI #
    Current
    Affiliation
    PRADY BILL 553390352 ASCAP
    Publishers / AdministratorsIPI #Current
    Affiliation
    347636538 ASCAP
    WARNER OLIVE MUSIC LLC

    Alternate Titles
    LULLABY 2 SOFT KITTY WARM KITTY SOFT KITTY

    and

    2.SOFT KITTY, WARM KITTY Work ID: 887254349 ISWC: T9151033986
    Total Controlled by ASCAP: 50%
    WritersIPI #Current
    Affiliation
    FIORENTINO JEFF 699970751 ASCAP
    Performers
    FIORENTINO JEFF

  25. Gail says:

    Worse case scenario they will put substitute music replacing the song on future blu ray and DVD releases.

  26. Gary says:

    It’s not clear if the sisters actually do own the rights to the song, or if the music company is the entity responsible for it; copyright laws have changed over the years, making a clear-cut assumption difficult. As well, Newlin’s “Warm Kitty” was itself an adapted version of an English children’s folk song, which was itself a soundalike of a German song. So there may be some additional issues when it comes to the actual origins and how those play into it. I assume the network’s legal team will leave no stone unturned.

  27. tsevca says:

    I don´t know who to believe and to be honest, having more information wouldn´t probably help, since European law is different in this from Anglo-American law, but if they didn´t have it covered legally, they are idiots. This is no Rolling Stones song. How expensive could it be to have it on the show?

  28. oceanluvver2 says:

    Give em some money and send them on their way…now they complain????

  29. oceanluvver2 says:

    Just pay em to shut em up….greedy people are so ugly!!