SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled on Monday that the producers of the “Jersey Boys” Broadway musical cannot be sued for copyright infringement for using a seven-second clip from the Ed Sullivan Show in 1966.

The musical, created by Dodger Productions Inc., chronicles the history of the popular 1960s rock ‘n’ roll group “The Four Seasons,” which was led by Frankie Valli and whose hits included “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Sherry.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the musical’s use of the Ed Sullivan clip is protected by the doctrine of fair use because the excerpt contributes to a creative work and doesn’t harm the TV show’s copyright.

“By using the clip for its biographical significance, Dodger has imbued it with new meaning and did so without usurping whatever demand there is for the original clip,” Circuit Judge Stephen Trott wrote.

The court dismissed a lawsuit in which SOFA Entertainment Inc., a company that owns the copyright to the Ed Sullivan Show, sought to sue Dodger for copyright infringement in federal court in Los Angeles.

The musical uses an onstage screen to show a seven-second clip in which Sullivan introduced the band to his studio and television audience on Jan. 2, 1966, by saying, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, here, for all youngsters in the country, the Four Seasons.”

In the musical, the onstage screen then goes dark and the actors playing the Four Seasons singers begin performing the song “Dawn.”

“Jersey Boys” is currently running at the SHN Curran Theatre in San Francisco through April 28.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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