E.T. in 1954?

Joy by Les Baxter

The E.T. film soundtrack has been a part of my life continuously since the film’s release in 1982. I have owned a cassette tape recording, vinyl album, CD and digital file of this wonderful and rich sore. As I was doing research on the origins of the composition from composer John Williams (who I consider to be the best film composer of all time), I ran into a UCLA law archive about a lawsuit indicating that John Williams used portions of an original composition called “Joy” by composer Les Baxter. “Joy” was composed for Capital Records in 1954 on album called The Passions. In the UCLA archive, Baxter vs. MCA Inc., plaintiff Leslie Baxter based his lawsuit on the following: there is “striking similarity” in the use of the six note sequence in both compositions, Baxter’s copyright was infringed upon, expert musical testimony by Professor Harvey Bacal, and that John Williams had played live piano of “Joy” in the 1960’s at the Hollywood Bowl. The defendants claimed that both compositions were not “substantially similar” thus not infringing on Mr. Baxter’s composition of “Joy”. In a summary judgment the defendant’s conceded the following, “(1) Baxter owned a duly registered copyright in Joy; (2) Williams had “access” to Joy before the creation of Theme from E.T.; and (3) the “general ideas” in the subject songs were substantially similar”(1).

Based on the facts stated, who do you think won the case? Did Mr. Baxter layout evidence to lead him to a victory against John Williams and MCA? Or was John William’s inspired by a similar theme and did not copy Mr. Baxter’s composition. Below are links to the UCLA archive and YouTube channel sources that include the music to “Joy” and the E.T. score in question.

(1) http://cip.law.ucla.edu/cases/1980-1989/Pages/baxtermca.aspx


Joy – http://youtu.be/LTwUTFmGX1Q

E.T. –    http://youtu.be/O15x-B8PgeE


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