Monday, March 16, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - A judge on Monday tossed out a lawsuit accusing the makers of “The Family Guy” of illegally twisting the dreamy classic “When You Wish Upon a Star” into an anti-Semitic ballad.

U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts in Manhattan said Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., Fox Broadcasting Co. and the Cartoon Network were within their rights to air the animated TV series episode in November 2003. It has since been broadcast at least 35 more times.

Music publishing house Bourne Co. sued the companies to try to stop distribution of the episode.

The episode was titled “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein” and relied on the premise that the main character had to hire a Jewish person to care for his family finances.

The judge said Bourne’s copyright does not protect it from parody.

Batts noted that Bourne reaps the benefit of its song’s association with the classic Walt Disney film “Pinocchio” and its reputation for wholesomeness.

“It is precisely that beneficial association that opens the song up to ridicule by parodists seeking to take the wind out of such lofty, magical, or pure associations,” she wrote.

She said the U.S. Supreme Court has found that such “deflating uses serve the important social function of shedding light on an earlier work.”

The judge also found that the episode’s song, “I Need a Jew,” would not devalue the market for “When You Wish Upon a Star,” despite Bourne’s claim that the song was such a thinly veiled copy of the classic that it amounted to copyright infringement.

Batts said even Bourne admitted that its song is known for its wholesomeness and sweetness while it believed the parody was offensive.

A message left with lawyers for Bourne was not immediately returned.

“When You Wish Upon a Star,” written by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline, appeared as part of the 1940 Disney movie “Pinocchio.” It won the Academy Award for best original song.

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