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Ninth Circuit Holds that Jersey Boys Did Not Infringe ‘Protected Expressive Elements’ of Autobiographical Book

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Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a decision on appeal from the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada in Corbello v. Valli. In particular, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment after a jury trial in favor of Valli, wherein the panel held that the musical, Jersey Boys, did not infringe Corbello’s copyright in an autobiography of Four Seasons’ band member Tommy DeVito. In the late 1980s, Tommy DeVito engaged with writer Rex Woodard to ghostwrite the autobiography of Tommy DeVito (the Work), which told “complete and truthful chronicle of the Four Seasons.” Upon completion of the book, Woodard and DeVito were unable to find a publisher for the book prior to Woodard’s death in 1991. Diana Corbello, Woodard’s widow, was the successor to Woodard’s interest in the Work and was also unsuccessful in finding a publisher for the Work. In 2005, the musical, Jersey Boys, debuted, and it was revealed that DeVito had registered the Work under his name only.

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