‘Glee’ High School Silences Show Choir Copyright Claims

Written March 30, 2020

The Ninth Circuit on March 24, 2020, held that Burbank High School’s music education program didn’t infringe copyrights by incorporating four songs into show choir medleys. Tresóna Multimedia LLC v. Burbank High Vocal Music, 9th Cir., No. 17-56006, 3/24/20.

Burbank High has five competitive show choirs, and “reportedly inspired the television series ‘Glee,’” the court said. Licensing company Tresóna sued the high school, its vocal music director, its booster club, and others based on small parts of four of Tresóna’s songs that were used in show choir arrangements without permission.

The Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that Tresóna couldn’t sue over three of the songs without the consent of the other co-owners of the songs. The Court also ruled that the school made fair use of Olivia Newton-John’s “Magic” as the arrangement used twenty seconds of the song in an “entirely different theatrical work” that added new “expression, meaning, and message,” which the court said was transformative.