For decades, parents have cribbed the lines of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" to keep children in check during the holidays, telling them they "better not cry, better not pout."
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band did a rockin' version of the song replete with a big sax solo by the late Clarence Clemmons.
Make no mistake, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is a money maker for the heirs of the songwriters and the EMI Feist Catalogue Inc., the London-based music company that obtained ownership rights to the song in 1981.
A federal judge in West Palm Beach ruled Monday that a lawsuit seeking to break that agreement, though ripe, was filed in the wrong jurisdiction.
"The activities of the affiliated entities that plaintiffs have uncovered are either unrelated to defendant, do not take place in Florida or fall well short of the level of activity required to establish general personal jurisdiction," U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra wrote in his 10-page decision.
But the fight over one of the most iconic holiday songs in Americana is far from over.
Attorney David P. Milian, a partner at Carey Rodriguez Greenberg & O'Keefe in Miami who represents the heirs, said he plans to refile the complaint in New York to try to break the agreement.
The song was written in 1934 by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie. Their heirs get royalties from EMI every time it's recorded or used in any capacity. The amended complaint filed April 12 asserts the family has a right to break the agreement under the Copyright Act amended in 1976 and 1998.
"They feel they would be in a better position to exploit the work and derive greater economic value," Milian said. "It is one of the top 10 songs of all time. Every major artist recorded it if it's on a Christmas album. It's one of the standards."
The song also is the basis for the much beloved stop-motion 1970s television special of the same name in which the song is sung by none other than Fred Astaire.