‘Andy Griffith Show’ theme ‘The Fishing Hole’ is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the composers’ families against CBS.
As television show themes, a tune rarely becomes more well-known than the theme of The Andy Griffith Show.
That familiar tune, officially titled, “The Fishin’ Hole,” is now at the center of a copyright infringement case. The estates of Earle Hagen and Herbert Spencer, the composers who created the tune no one can resist whistling along with, filed the lawsuit.
They say CBS does not own the rights to license the theme song itself. The suit alleges CBS is infringing on the families’ copyrighted work when it sold the show on consumer DVD and licensed it on streaming services.
“They argue the network is relying on a 1978 agreement between Viacom and Mayberry Enterprises concerning rights to the series and that the agreement doesn’t include home video or other modern media,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The actual lawsuit says it came to the attention of at least one of the plaintiffs in May 2018 that “CBS was selling and/or distributing copies of DVDs” of The Andy Griffith Show and that those episodes, of course, include the theme song.
That was a surprise to me. They learned in May of 2018 that the show was being sold on DVD?
The Andy Griffith Show has been on DVD for years now. It was produced for VHS long before that. I did a quick search online and found the earliest release year for a VHS release for episodes of the series dated all the way back to 1993.
I remember years ago buying a very low-priced VHS tape — back when I owned a VCR — of a handful of episodes from the series. For these episodes, as the story goes, the copyright wasn’t properly renewed. So these particular shows are considered “public domain” because of the paperwork oversight.
The one thing I remember about that tape was being surprised that the only thing missing from the “uncut” episodes was the theme music.
Instead of the tune we all know, there was an alternate tune that was similar but not similar enough that anyone would recognize it. It sounded like it was composed on a low-end home electronic organ.
It definitely wasn’t the same.
I hope this doesn’t mean CBS has to either strip the theme music out of the episodes it sends to streaming services like Netflix. Even worse, though, would be if they had to pull the show altogether. (If they did, I’d cancel Netflix.)
Maybe the lawsuit will prompt some kind of deal. I’d hate to imagine having to watch the show without hearing that tune.