'Wish Upon a Star' song owner loses Fox lawsuit
NEW YORK - A judge Monday tossed out a lawsuit accusing the makers of an animated television show of illegally twisting the dreamy classic "When You Wish Upon a Star" into an anti-Semitic ballad.
U.S. District Judge Hon. Deborah Batts in Manhattan said Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., Fox Broadcasting Co. and the Cartoon Network were within their rights to air the episode in November 2003. It has since been broadcast at least 35 more times.
Music publishing house Bourne Co. sued the companies to try to stop distribution of an episode of the television series "The Family Guy."
The episode was titled "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein" and relied on the premise that the main character had to hire a Jewish person to care for his family finances.
The judge said Bourne's copyright does not protect it from parody.
Batts noted that Bourne reaps the benefit of its song's association with the classic Walt Disney film "Pinocchio" and its reputation for wholesomeness.
"It is precisely that beneficial association that opens the song up to ridicule by parodists seeking to take the wind out of such lofty, magical, or pure associations," she wrote.
She said the U.S. Supreme Court has found that such "deflating uses serve the important social function of shedding light on an earlier work."
The judge also found that the episode's song, "I Need a Jew," would not devalue the market for "When You Wish Upon a Star," despite Bourne's claim that the song was such a thinly veiled copy of the classic that it amounted to copyright infringement.
Batts said even Bourne admitted that its song is known for its wholesomeness and sweetness while it believed the parody was offensive.
A message left with lawyers for Bourne was not immediately returned.
"When You Wish Upon a Star," written by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline, appeared in 1940 as part of the Walt Disney motion picture "Pinocchio." It won the Academy Award that year for Best Original Song.