Johnson v. Cypress Hill, No. 03 C 9452, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jul. 7, 2008) (Norgle, J.).

Judge Norgle struck defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff Johnson’s copyright infringement claim. The Court previously denied summary judgment as to the other plaintiffs, Watts and Jones – click here to read the Blog’s prior post about that opinion. Plaintiffs authored the song “Is It Because I’m Black” in 1968 and recorded a version of it in 1969 (the “Song”).  Plaintiffs alleged that defendants, including the musical group Cypress Hill (click here for some of the group’s music on their MySpace page), infringed their copyright in the Song by using parts of it in their Black Sunday album.

Johnson’s copyright claim is based upon a 1997 registration for a compilation of songs allegedly containing the Song. But a review of a certified copy of Johnson’s compilation from the Copyright Office proved the Song was not on the deposited compilation. Because the Song was not a part of the registered work, Johnson could not show ownership of a valid copyright. The Court, therefore, dismissed the claim.

The Court also held that Johnson’s failure to file a Notice of Use pursuant to the 1909 Copyright Act was irrelevant because Congress deleted the Notice of Use requirement effective January 1, 1978, before any alleged infringement occurred.