Ghostwriter Widow May have Claim to ‘Jersey Boys’

The widow of a ghostwriter has won reinstatement of her copyright claim to a share of the  hit musical “Jersey Boys.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday revived the claims of Donna Corbello, whose late husband, Rex Woodward, ghost wrote a boy about the life of the guitarist in Frankie Valli’s band, The Four Seasons.

Corbello alleged her husband, an attorney and journalist, made a deal in 1988 to split the proceeds of the book about guitarist Tommy DeVito.  In 1991 Woodward died before the book was published and Corbello says DeVito copyrighted it under his name alone.

In 1999, DeVito and the former bank members got together to create the popular musical about the bank.

The musical “Jersey Boys” opened on Broadway in 2005 to great acclaim, winning four Tony awards and later a motion picture.

.Corbello claims she found out in 2006 that DeVito had copyrighted the manuscript alone.

She argues “Jersey Boys” was a derivative work from the unpublished autobiography and that she was the heir of the copyright holder.

The trial judge in Los Angeles, Judge Robert Jones, dismissed her lawsuit.

But the 9th Circuit reversed DeVito’s 1999 deal with members of the Four Seasons exclusive rights to use aspects of their lives for a musical may have constituted a transfer of ownership of DeVito’s derivative work in the autobiography.

The appeals panel sent the case back to Jones.

Case:  Corbello v. Valli, No. 12-16733

 

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