Peters, p/k/a Vince P. v. Kanye West, No. 10 C 3951, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 3, 2011) (Kendall, J.).
Judge Kendall granted defendants’ (collectively "Kanye West") Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss plaintiff Vince P’s copyright infringement claim. Vince P alleged that Kanye West copied Vince P’s 2006 song "Stronger" when Kanye West released his 2007 song "Stronger." Vince P sufficiently pled ownership of a registered copyright. So, the issue was whether Vince P sufficiently pled copying. As an initial matter, Vince P sufficiently pled access to Vince P’s work by alleging that Vince P shared his song with Kanye West’s "close friend, advisor and business associate" John Monopoly.
The Court then considered whether the allegedly copied elements of Vince P’s song were copyrightable:
- Title — Titles by themselves are not copyrightable.
- Kate Moss — A reference to Kate Moss in each song was an unprotectable fact.
- Hook — The use of the maxim "that which does not kill us makes us stronger" was not protectable because it was not original to Vince P. And the use of "wronger" in each hook was not protectable because while it was a unique word, it was actually part of a rhyme scheme with "longer" and common rhyme schemes are not protectable.
The combination of the above elements was not used in its entirety or in a nearly identical way. Therefore, the combination was not protectable.
Finally, the two songs did not display "fragmented literal similarity." That doctrine, recognized in other circuits, allows for infringement where a smaller fragment of a work is literally copied, but not the entire work. The similarities between the two Stronger songs, however, did not even rise to the level of fragmented literal similarity. Among other reasons the allegedly copied fragments were not integral parts of the copyrighted work.
Because there was no substantial similarity between the two songs, the Court dismissed the copyright infringement claim.