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Lawsuit Filed by Abbott & Costello Heirs Against Acclaimed Hand to God Play Claims Infringement of Famous “Who’s on First?” Routine

New York, NY, June 5, 2015 – The heirs to the iconic comedy duo Abbott & Costello filed a copyright infringement lawsuit late yesterday in the Southern District of New York against the producers of the acclaimed Broadway play Hand to God for infringing their famous “Who’s on First?” comedy routine.

The suit alleges federal and New York common law copyright infringement against the playwright, producers, and promoters of Hand to God, up for five Tony Awards this weekend, for featuring a significant portion of the legendary “Who’s on First?” routine, currently being performed eight times a week, without license or permission from the plaintiffs.

Marc Rachman, intellectual property litigation partner at law firm Davis & Gilbert representing the heirs in this case, says:

  • “This case is about the infringement of one of the most iconic comedy routines of all time, created by Abbott & Costello, the legendary comedy duo. This comedy scene is being used in Hand to God without permission from the heirs of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.” 
  • “Although Hand to God is an innovative and creative new American play, there is one critical scene in the play that flies in the face of the very originality and creativity that the play hopes to embody. That is the scene that uses Abbott & Costello’s Who’s on First without permission. And that is what this lawsuit is about.”
  • “This lawsuit, is about putting copyright law ‘on First’ for all artists and creators of original works, including Abbott & Costello. These priorities and values should be regarded as essential to all artistic endeavors.”
  • “The heirs of Abbott & Costello notified the producers and the playwright nearly two months ago and simply were stonewalled, never receiving a meaningful response. My firm was hired recently when the prior efforts to compensate the heirs of Abbott & Costello for their original work had not succeeded. We then contacted the producers and playwright prior to commencing litigation, but the producers left us no alternative but to file the lawsuit.”

The complaint claims the defendants are willfully capitalizing on Abbott & Costello’s world-famous reputation and plaintiffs’ copyrighted works, despite requests that they cease and desist. The heirs are seeking damages and attorney’s fees for copyright infringement, and injunctive relief, under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., and under New York copyright common law. 

Plaintiffs are TCA Television Corp., Hi Neighbor and Diana Abbott Colton.

Defendants are Kevin McCollum; Broadway Global Ventures; CMC; Morris Berchard; Mariano V Tolentino Jr.; Stephanie Kramer; Lams Productions, Inc.; Desimone/Winkler; Joan Raffe; Jhett Tolentino; Timothy Laczynski; Lily Fan; Ayal Miodovnik; Jam Theatricals Ltd.; Ensemble Studio Theater, Inc.; MCC Theater; Robert Askins; Key Brand Entertainment Inc., And Does And ABC Companies 1-10. 

About Davis & Gilbert
Davis & Gilbert LLP is a full-service law firm of more than 110 lawyers. Founded over a century ago and located in a single office in New York City, the firm represents a wide array of clients throughout the United States and internationally. Davis & Gilbert is well-known for its intellectual property and marketing communications expertise. It is ranked in publications and legal directories such as ChambersLegal 500 and Best Law Firms. The firm has also been consistently recognized in The BTI Consulting Group’s “Client Service A-Team” (2012-2015) and in The National Law Journal’s Midsize Hot List (2012-2014).

For more information, please contact:
Madeline O'Connor
Hellerman Baretz Communications LLC
646.371.9807 Direct
302.824.8272 Mobile