The heirs to a New Hampshire teacher who wrote a poem about a "soft kitty" eight decades ago said in a lawsuit Monday that TV's The Big Bang Theory is violating their copyrights. Edith Newlin's daughters sued CBS and other media-related companies over the copyright to a song the lawsuit says has repeatedly been used on the hit sitcom as well as in merchandising for the show. According to the lawsuit, the show used lyrics written by Newlin in the 1930s without buying the rights. The lyrics begin: "Soft kitty, warm kitty." The Big Bang Theory characters have periodically sung a lullaby involving that phrase, often to comfort theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons.
The daughters' lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages from the show's producers and distributors, says the defendants not only have failed to credit Newlin but have sometimes made it appear as if the lyrics were written by one of the show's producers. The lawsuit says Warner Bros. Entertainment and the show's other producers decided in 2007 that they wanted to use the lyrics and sought permission from Willis Music Co., a Florence, Kentucky-based company that had published them in a book, Songs for the Nursery School. The lawsuit says Willis Music authorized use of the lyrics without consulting or getting permission from Newlin's heirs even though the book makes clear on its acknowledgement page and where the lyrics appear that Newlin was the author of and owned the copyright to the lyrics.