Months after a jury in Nevada federal court found the creators of the long-running Broadway smash Jersey Boys guilty of copyright infringement, Judge Robert C. Jones ruled in favor of the defendants' appeal.
The musical tracks the career of the singing group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. DeVito, one of the founders of the Four Seasons, co-wrote the book with Woodard before he died. DeVito later said he had written the book on his own and it was used in the preparation of the musical. Woodard's widow, Donna Corbello, brought the case and had originally said 30 percent of the show’s success was owed to her late husband‘s book.
Jurors determined that 10 percent of the show‘s success was attributable to material director Des McAnuff and writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice drew from an unpublished biography, Tommy DeVito—Then and Now, by author Rex Woodard.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, in his reversal of the decision the judge wrote about several factors that led to his conclusion. The judge explains that before the musical's debut, the biography “had no market value.” To the extent that the novel “may be profitable today, it is almost certainly only because of the [musical].”
He added that the musical, according to its running time, consists of over 50 percent music, “in which Plaintiff has no copyright, and the remainder of which (the non-musical script of the Play) is comprised of less than 1% of creative expression found in the Work and uses less than 1% of the Work. If anything, the Play has increased the value of the Work.”
“In summary, at most, the jury could have found about 145 creative words to have been copied from the Work into the Play, whether as dialogue or creative descriptions of events,” the judge wrote. “Those 145 words constitute about 0.2% of the approximately 68,500 words in the Work.”
Read the judge's complete order here.
The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical ended its lengthy, award-winning run January 15, 2017. The show has spun off international productions, tours, and a movie.