Widow Can’t Derail ‘Jersey Boys’ Trial

     LAS VEGAS (CN) — A federal judge refused to ask the Ninth Circuit for pre-trial review of a copyright ruling in which a writer’s widow claims a founding member of the Four Seasons owes her $6.5 million in profits from the “Jersey Boys” musical.
     The “Jersey Boys” copyright trial is set to begin Oct. 31 in Las Vegas.
     Donna Corbello claims that in 1981 her late husband Rex Woodard helped lead defendant Thomas Gaetano DeVito write an unpublished autobiography of DeVito’s life as a founding member of the Four Seasons.
     Corbello says the book eventually was used to create the hit musical “Jersey Boys.” In her 2007 lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas, she claimed that the musical had been earning $150 million a year.
     In August this year, U.S. District Judge Robert Jones in Las Vegas denied Corbello’s fifth request for summary judgment, and set the trial for Halloween.
     Jones on Sept. 7 denied Corbello’s motion for interlocutory review of his Sept. 30, 2015 ruling that the biography is entitled to thin copyright protection.
     Thin copyright protection applies to works with a minimal amount of original creativity. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service Co. (1991) that a telephone book was entitled only to thin protection because arranging names in alphabetical order entails a minimal amount of creativity.
     Thick protection provides a greater degree of protection for wholly original works.
     Corbello said in her motion that without review, she would face a “drawn-out and expensive trial” in a case that already has gone on for nine years, and she is a 66-year-old widow.
     She asked the court to certify for immediate review whether “original expression in a copyrighted or autobiographical literary work is accorded only ‘thin’ protection,” and whether an author’s “original expression about historical events, including his subjective perceptions and impressions of the characteristics and personalities of real persons” are protected by copyright.
     She also sought review of whether fictional elements of factual events in an unpublished work are protected under copyright law.
     DeVito opposed the motion, saying an impending summary judgment might render the issue moot, and that Corbello’s motion did not satisfy the standards for interlocutory review.
     Jones agreed with DeVito and denied Corbello’s motion.

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