New York Times, November 17, 1988
Peggy Lee Is Suing Disney
The singer Peggy Lee filed suit in Los Angeles yesterday against the Walt Disney Company, charging breach of contract in the release of a videocassette version of the 1955 movie Lady and the Tramp without her consent.
Miss Lee, who is suing Disney for $25 million in royalties and damages, wrote all the lyrics and some of the melodies for the six songs in the animated classic, and performed voices "for two cats, one dog and one human being," she said in New York yesterday.
"We have not yet received the papers, and we have no comment," said a spokesman for the Walt Disney Company, Erwin Okun. Miss Leeís lawyer, Alvin Deutsch, said the suit was served yesterday at the Disney offices. A complaint was formally filed in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles.
A Disney spokesman said the cassette version of Lady and the Tramp has sold 3.5 million cassettes since it was released in 1987, earning $90 million. Mr. Deutsch said Disney had earned more than $140 million from the film both in theaters and on cassette.
"Iím not being a saint, saying I donít want the money Ė I want it," Miss Lee said. "I think itís shameful that artists canít share financially from the success of their work. Thatís the only way we can make our living."
Miss Lee and the songwriter Sonny Burke split a royaltee fee of $1,000 for the sheet music and phonograph record rights for the filmís six songs, she said, which included "Heís a Tramp" and "Bella Notte."
Miss Lee said she was paid an additional $3,500 for her singing and for performing as the voice of Peg Ė the dog who is jilted by the Tramp Ė as well as the cats Si and Am, and Darling, a human character in the film.
At issue is a clause in Miss Leeís 1952 contract with Disney that denies the company the right to "make phonograph recordings and/or transcriptions for sale to the public."
Mr. Deutsch says that the word "transcriptions" includes videocassettes, since phonograph record and sheet music rights were bought separately.
by Glenn Collins