Music Industry News Network [11-11-2012]

Pryor Cashman Wins Dismissal Of All Claims Against Elton John And Bernie Taupin In Copyright Case Involving Song "Nikita"

Pryor Cashman has won dismissal of all claims brought against Sir Elton John and his longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin in a music copyright infringement case.

The federal court in Chicago dismissed a copyright infringement claim brought by Guy Hobbs against Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Hobbs, a photojournalist and aspiring songwriter, claimed that the lyrics of Elton John's 1985 hit song Nikita infringed Hobbs's lyrics entitled Natasha, which he claimed to have circulated among music publishers in 1984. Hobbs's lyrics, which were never put to music, were inspired by his doomed cruise ship romance with a Russian waitress.

U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve rejected Hobbs's claim and granted John's and Taupin's motion to dismiss his complaint as a matter of law, finding that each of the elements which Hobbs alleged had been copied were "rudimentary, commonplace, and standard," making them unprotectable under copyright law. The court stated: "after filtering out the non-protected elements, no similarities exist between the two songs except for generic themes, words and phrases…. In sum, the similarities highlighted by Hobbs are not sufficiently unique or complex to establish copyright infringement."

Representatives of John and Taupin stated that the songwriting team always vigorously defends against meritless claims and protects the rights in their copyrighted works. John, Taupin, and publisher Big Pig Music were represented by Tom J. Ferber, Ilene S. Farkas and Stephanie Kline of Pryor Cashman LLP.


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