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16 episodes of the classic 1960s series “The Andy Griffith Show” has been posted online by user Cartoon Channel. The show starring Andy Griffith, Don Konts and Ron Howard , ran on CBS from 1960 to 1968. These new videos posted on YouTube have now gathered upwards of 2 million views. CBS took action and filed a complaint on Thursday in New York federal court, naming Edward Heldman III, founder of ComedyMX which runs the channel.

The episodes in question had actually fallen into public domain in the ‘90s due to copyright-renewal applications were disallowed since the filing was late. It was for these reasons that Heldman thought that posting the episodes were legitimate and not infringing on any rights. CBS attorney, Jonathan Zavin, disagrees. Since episodes 80-95 were not registered does not mean they are wholly unprotected. Zavin argues that because CBS holds valid Copyright for the first 79 episodes subsequent contact is also protected. The rationale of this argument is that the “characters” and other “numerous original creative elements” that appear in the subsequent episodes would still be protected. The “newly-added elements” of the episodes “80-95” which did not previously appear in the first 79 episodes are the only areas which have fallen into public domain.

Heldman argues that the posting of these episodes are not infringing because not only are they public domain but they are “remastered” and should, therefore, be considered as derivative works.

CBS disagrees and seeks an injunction of either actual damages plus any profits made from posting episodes or statutory damages. This would range from $750 to $150,000 per infringement. CBS cites the 79 instances, which means that Heldman will be on the hook for $11.8 million if he is found liable! Yikes!

Credit: Jessica Wong


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