Warner Bros. Was Once Sued Over the Use of 'Soft Kitty' on 'The Big Bang Theory'

SheldonCooper might have been a genius, but he wasn’t above enjoying sweetmemories from his childhood. In fact, every time Sheldon got sick, he requiredanyone within earshot to sing him to sleep. He didn’t want to hear just anysong, though; Sheldon insisted his friends sang a song from his childhood,titled “Soft Kitty.” The song became a hit of its own among fans of the show,but If you thought the writers of TheBig Bang Theory dreamt up “Soft Kitty” on their own, you’d be mistaken.Warner Bros. and CBS were sued for their use of the lyrics.

How many times was “Soft Kitty” sang on The Big BangTheory

“Soft Kitty” first appeared in the first season of TheBig Bang Theory. Fansof the series note that Penny first sang the song to Sheldon, after muchprompting, in episode 11. The song was sung eight more times during the run ofthe show.

Although the song was from Sheldon’s childhood, severalcharacters sang the song to him as a stand-in from his mother, who was said tohave introduced him to the ditty. At one point, Sheldon even sings the song to Pennyafter she dislocated her shoulder. He also breaks into song to cheer upProfessor Proton in season 6. Leonard and Penny sing the song as a duet inseason eight, and it appeared one more time in season 10. In season 10, Amytakes on the role of songstress to lull Sheldon to sleep.

Where did the song come from?

The song that became so synonymous with Sheldon was actuallya poem crafted in the 1930s. According to Vulture,a woman named Edith Newlin penned the poem in the late 1930s, then sold the rightsto the poem to Willis Music. Willis Music took the poem and published it in apopular book called Songs for the Nursery School. It appeared with dozensof other songs that could be used in educational settings.

The publisher sold thousands of copies of the book in the1930s and 1940s. They have kept the copyright on their music current. Willis Musicpermitted Warner Bros. to use the song in The Big Bang Theory, according to a statement on theirwebsite.

The lawsuit against Warner Bros. was dropped in 2017

In 2015, Newlin’s children filed a lawsuit alleging that CBSand Warner Bros. infringed on their copyright by using “Soft Kitty” in the seriesand on merchandise. Newlin, who died in 2004, was never credited for the lyricsto the song, and fans had no idea that “Soft Kitty” was a preexisting workprior to the lawsuit.

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Reutersnoted that the lawsuit was dismissed in 2017 when a US District Court Judge ruledthat the plaintiffs could not prove that they owned the copyright to the lyricsassociated with “Soft Kitty.” According to court papers, the judge claimed thatNewlin’s heirs had not updated any copyright associated with the poem or the lyricsand that their copyright was not automatically renewed when Willis Musicupdated their publication’s copyright.

“Soft Kitty” remains heavily quoted by The Big BangTheory fans, even after the series wrapped production. The series, whichaired its final episode in May 2019, will soon have a streaming home. The showwill be part of HBOMax’s blockbuster library when the service launches on May 27, 2020.

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