But they don’t own that soundtrack unless they happen to be the writer or publisher of that soundtrack. Which means those popular songs can’t be used in public with the proper licensing.
Case in point the current legal dispute between Charlie Brown Christmas special producer Lee Mendelson and Dollywood.
It seems that the Tennessee theme park partly owned and wholly inspired by country megastar Dolly Parton has been using music from the 54-year-old animated television show “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in its own holiday festivities. Mendelson co-wrote the song “Christmas Time is Here” with Vince Guaraldi. That song that opens the Charlie Brown special and which is the tune that the park has apparently been using allegedly without permission for more than a decade.
So how much financial damage could be claimed from using a song that’s been around for half a century?
Well the suit is asking for $150,000. Not a total of $150,000, but that amount for each time the song has been played as part of Dollywood’s stage shows. Plus legal fees. That would be a huge chunk of change.
The strangest part of this to me is that Parton is a brilliant and prolific songwriter, as well as performer and businesswoman, who is represented by the same performing rights organization (PRO) that collects the licensing fees for “Christmas Time is Here.”
Now I know that Dolly certainly isn’t involved in the day-to-day operation of the park, but that somebody in his organization let this go on for so many years is hard to fathom.
Dollywood was reportedly given notice last year but still didn’t obtain a license to use the copywrited music.
Music creators and producers lose a lot of money by unauthorized use of their songs, many times by people who have no idea they’re doing anything wrong. This suit, no matter how it ends, may provide a wake-up call.