Andrew Lloyd Webber Triumphs in ‘Cats’ Copyright Battle

Andrew Lloyd Webber, the renowned composer, has emerged victorious in a legal dispute over the authorship of the theme song from the iconic musical ‘Cats’. The High Court in London dismissed claims by Philip Christian, a former dancer and aspiring songwriter, who alleged that he was the original creator of the melody and lyrics that led to the creation of ‘Memory’, the flagship song from the 1981 West End and Broadway production.

Christian, 68, had contended in court that his song, recorded during his performing arts training, was inadvertently passed to Lloyd Webber. He claimed that a dancer associated with one of Lloyd Webber’s shows overheard his composition at the Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden and later relayed it to the composer during the development of ‘Cats’. In his lawsuit, Christian sought ownership rights and future royalties, asserting that the lyrics and musical score were his creations.

However, Judge James Brightwell at the Royal Courts of Justice found Christian’s claim to be without merit. During the proceedings, Christian, who represented himself, performed his song in court, insisting that it had been memorized and then recited to Lloyd Webber. Christian expressed his longstanding frustration, noting his emotional response every time he heard the tune on the radio.

The legal team for Lloyd Webber and the lyricist Sir Trevor Nunn, led by barrister Stephanie Wickenden, refuted Christian’s claims. Wickenden argued that the idea of Lloyd Webber’s dancer memorizing and reciting the song was baseless. She highlighted that much of the lyrics of ‘Memory’ were derived from a T.S. Eliot poem dating back to 1917, further questioning why the claim had not been made earlier in the song’s four-decade history.

In delivering his judgment, Judge Brightwell noted the lack of concrete evidence from Christian, particularly the absence of the original recording. He found it implausible that a dancer could perfectly recall and convey both the lyrics and melody to Lloyd Webber in such a casual context. The judge concluded that the allegations were “entirely fanciful and entirely hopeless,” resulting in the dismissal of the claim.

‘Cats’, based on T.S. Eliot’s poetry, remains one of the most successful musicals in history, with thousands of performances in both the West End and Broadway. The stage show was also adapted into a film in 2019, starring James Corden. The rights to the song ‘Memory’ are registered to Lloyd Webber and Nunn, with the Eliot family sharing the copyright of the lyrics.

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