A jury will decide a composer's claim that John...

SAN FRANCISCO -- A jury will decide a composer's claim that John Williams' Oscar-winning theme to the movie 'E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial' was stolen from a 1953 song.

A federal appeals court Thursday reinstated composer Leslie T. Baxter's copyright claim against Williams, the director of the Boston Pops.


The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals's ruling overturned dismissal of the copyright infringement lawsuit and allows to take his case to trial before a jury.

'We do not suggest that the works are, in fact, substantially similar. We only state that reasonable minds could differ as to the issue and thus that summary judgment (for Williams) was improper,' wrote Judge Thomas Tang for the three-judge panel.

Baxter's suit against Williams, MCA, Inc., Universal Studios and other firms connected with 'E.T.' claims the theme is strikingly similar to Baxter's 1953 song 'Joy.'

Williams contends only a six-note sequence in the two songs are similar.

The appeals court said that is an issue for the ears of a jury.

Williams was a pianist for Baxter in the 1950s and participated in public performances of 'Joy' in the Hollywood Bowl in the 1960s.

Baxter, of Chatsworth, a well-known composer of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, has composed 50 albums and themes for 120 movies, according to his attorney John T. Blanchard.


Some of his best known songs include the theme for the movie 'High and the Mighty,' 'Because of You,' 'Ruby,' 'Unchained Melody,' 'Wake the Town and Tell the People' and the 'Poor People of Paris,' Blanchard said.

The 1953 song was on an album called 'The Passions.'

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