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Santa Claus is comin’ to town

Richard Easton considers the circumstances in which the law recognises Santa as being 'real', and discusses the exploits of a criminal Father Christmas

21 December 2015

As of December 2016, EMI will lose the rights to John Frederick Coots’s 1934 seasonal earworm ‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town’. The three-year copyright battle between the record label and the deceased musician’s family ended in the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in October.

The case is a reminder that there are billable hours to be made out of Santa. But are there Santa ©laws? And is there a hidden clause behind being Santa? 

Father Christmases 

The first question must be: ?who does the law recognise ?as the real Santa Claus? 

In re Name Change of Handley, 107 Ohio Misc 2d 24, 736 NE 2d 125, 126 (Prob Ct 2000) concerned the application of the petitioner, a ‘rotund gentleman’ of Franklin County, Ohio, ‘with a full white beard and wear[ing] wire glasses’, for his name to be changed to ‘Santa Robert Claus’. He had played the role of Santa for 40 yea...

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