Frankie Hewitt, executive producer of Ford's Theatre, has been sued by a subsidiary of Motown for "deliberate, intentional and willful copyright infringements" in connection with 31 of the songs used in Ford's current production, "Dancin' in the Street!"
In a suit filed this month in U.S. District Court here, Jobete Music Inc. has asked that performances of the show, and those of the original company in Boston, be stopped and that damages be awarded. No ruling on the suit has been made. The Boston producers are named in the suit as well.
The lawsuit is part of a long-simmering dispute between Motown and the show's producers. Although the dispute is primarily between Motown and the six Boston producers, attorneys for the music company claim that Hewitt "was aware . . . that the performance of the Show at Ford's Theatre would infringe on Plaintiff's copyrights . . ."
"Dancin' in the Street!" is essentially a revue that uses songs of the '60s that were published by Motown and made famous by its artists. The show in Boston originally was licensed to operate under an agreement with ASCAP, the organization that represents composers and lyricists in copyright and royalty matters.
Motown later challenged that license by sending the Boston producers--and later, Ford's Theatre--a letter ordering them to "cease and desist" all performances. They did not, and in reply the Boston producers filed a suit against Motown, seeking a court ruling that would allow them to continue under the ASCAP license. That license requires them to pay less in royalties than the "grand rights" that Motown wants. Lawyers for all sides have been negotiating for at least six months.
Edward A. McDermott Jr., Ford's lawyer, said yesterday he had just received a copy of the lawsuit and was still formulating a response. He said there were no plans to stop performances of the show.