There’s trouble in Mayberry — the heirs of the composers who penned the theme song for TV’s “The Andy Griffith Show” are suing CBS for allegedly using the recording of the tune on a DVD anthology series without a license.
Earle Hagen and Herbert Spencer wrote the catchy melody in the 1950s, with their rights subsequently transferred to their Larrabee Music partnership. After their deaths, the company was dissolved and partial copyrights went to a trust, according to the 10-page complaint for copyright infringement filed Thursday in Los Angeles federal court.
The composers’ heirs claim CBS is exploiting the theme without prior permission by selling DVDs of the series, alleging that previous agreements do not cover home video or digital media.
A CBS representative could not be reached for comment.
The plaintiffs allege that in May 2018, The Diana R. Spencer Trust discovered that CBS was selling and/or distributing copies of DVDs of the series, which includes the theme.
“DRST asked CBS for copies of any license agreements permitting them to exploit the theme as part of a DVD offering of the Series,” according to the suit. “After CBS reviewed its files, it was unable to provide any such license agreements. However, CBS has refused to enter into a new agreement with Plaintiffs to authorize its exploitation of the theme in additional media or to otherwise cease conducting such unauthorized exploitation. To the contrary, plaintiffs have since learned that CBS has licensed the Series to digital services such as iTunes and Amazon for distribution and public performance.”
The suit seeks a judge’s order stopping CBS from utilizing the theme, unspecified damages and the network’s profits from sale of the anthology.
Hagen — who also composed themes for “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “I Spy,” “The Mod Squad” and “That Girl” — once said of the whistled Griffith show melody, also known as “The Fishin’ Hole” — that he “realized what the show needed was a simple tune. So, I spent all of 15 minutes writing it. I called my bass player and drummer, and we recorded it in a little studio in Hollywood. I whistled the tune myself.”
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