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Moviemaker Disney has until August 12 to notify the Pretoria High Court whether it intends defending a R15-million claim for damages for allegedly infringing the copyright on the song The Lion Sleeps Tonight.
Disney Enterprises, Nu Metro Home Entertainment, the David Gresham Entertainment Group and David Gresham Records all received summonses and the particulars of the claim last week, South African lawyer Owen Dean said on Tuesday.
The estate of the late songwriter Solomon Linda is seeking an interdict restraining the four companies from continuing to use the song, and damages totalling R15-million.
A total of R10-million is being sought against Disney and New Metro and another R5-million against the David Gresham companies.
A version of the song was used in the Disney smash hit The Lion King.
Dean said Disney had until August 12 to give notice of its intention to defend the proceedings or not. Nu Metro and the David Gresham companies had until July 28 and 30 respectively.
"If any of the parties fail to give notice of their intention to defend the action by the respective due dates, judgment will be entered against such party by default," he said in a statement.
"Once having given notice of their intention to defend the proceedings, the defendants are required to file formal answers with the (Pretoria High) court within three weeks."
None of the parties had given any notice to date of an intention to defend the action, Dean said.
He also announced that the registered trademarks of Disney Enterprises in South Africa - about 240 in total - have been attached in favour of the executor of the Linda estate. These included names like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Disney itself.
This was done in terms of a Pretoria High Court order obtained last month to secure South African jurisdiction over the case.
Should judgment be granted against Disney in the copyright case and the awards granted are not paid, the executor of Linda's estate would be entitled to sell the trademarks.
The original melody for the song The Lion Sleeps Tonight was composed by Linda, a migrant mine worker, more than half a century ago. He sold the melody to Gallo for 10 shillings (R1) in 1952.
The tune, originally entitled Mbube, has since reportedly been modified by more than 150 artists and generated more than $15-million in royalties.
Linda's three surviving daughters and 10 grandchildren still live in Soweto. They sought legal help after realising they had lost out on millions of dollars in royalties.
Under the provisions of a Commonwealth law in force at the time the song was first recorded, the rights to a song revert back to the composer's heirs 25 years after his death.