Warner/Chappell Files Suit Against DuBose Heyward Estate Over Porgy and Bess

News   Warner/Chappell Files Suit Against DuBose Heyward Estate Over Porgy and Bess
A lawsuit has been filed regarding the classic George Gershwin-Ira Gershwin-DuBose Heyward opera Porgy and Bess, which made its debut eight decades ago and was most recently seen on Broadway in 2012 co-starring Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis.

According to law360.com, Warner/Chappell Music has filed a suit against the DuBose Heyward Estate, claiming that the estate for the late lyricist and librettist has been interfering with the global copyrights of Porgy and Bess. The suit, which was filed in New York federal court, says that copyrights for the opera outside the United States are the property of Warner/Chappell, which is the publishing unit of Warner Music Group. In the documents filed, Warner/Chappell asserts, "An actual controversy has arisen and now exists relating to Warner/Chappell’s world ex-U.S. rights in and to the [Porgy and Bess] compositions, which the Heyward fund wrongly and without any basis contends belong to it. Indeed, the Heyward fund is actually asserting these world ex-U.S. rights as if these rights belong to it, which they do not."

The DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund, according to the lawsuit, sent letters in 2015 to affiliates in Germany, France and Italy demanding they stop publishing the work, claiming the fund holds the rights to the famed opera.

Several agreements have been made over the years regarding the rights to the opera. According to law 360.com, the most recent agreement — made in 2005 — saw Warner/Chappell pay $1.1 million to the Heyward fund that confirmed Warner did indeed own rights to the musical outside the U.S.

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