Rights to ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ revert to co-writer’s heirs

Pop Goes The News — The holiday classic “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” will belong to the heirs of its co-writer beginning next year, a court ruled Thursday.

A three-judge panel at the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said publishing rights to the popular song, held by EMI Feist Catalog Inc., will revert to the family of John Frederick Coots.

He and James Lamont Gillespie wrote “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in 1934 and sold the rights to EMI Feist. Coots renewed the agreement in 1951 and again in 1981.

U.S. law allows songwriters or their heirs to terminate rights agreements after 35 years.

Coots’ only living offspring, 81-year-old Gloria Coots Baldwin, sued EMI Feist in 2012 on behalf of six grandchildren.

Since the composer’s death in 1985, the family has received songwriting royalties for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” but not publishing royalties.

Hundreds of artists have recorded the song, including Canada’s Justin Bieber and Michael Bublé.

The Coots heirs will hold the publishing rights until 2029.