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Peters v. West

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 08-20-2012
Case #: 11-1708
Easterbrook, Bauer, Wood, Newman, Clevenger

Copyright: A strong evidentiary showing of the opportunity to copy a work does not lessen the plaintiff's burden to show a significant similarity between the copyrighted and offending works.

Opinion (Wood): Vincent Peters (Peters) is an aspiring rapper who, in 2006, wrote and recorded a song entitled “Stronger.” Peters contacted music producer John Monopoly, to whom he gave a copy of Stronger and played the song for him at a November 2006 meeting. No greater business relationship ever materialized between Peters and Monopoly. In July 2007, Kanye West (West) released Graduation, an album containing a song entitled “Stronger.” John Monopoly is listed as a manager on the album. Peters identified several similarities between his “Stronger” and West’s “Stronger”: both songs use the Nietzsche saying “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” both songs rhyme stronger with “wronger” and “longer,” and both songs reference Kate Moss. After registering his “Stronger”, Peters filed suit against West. West’s motion to dismiss was granted by the district court. Peters appealed. Some jurisdictions allow for a sliding evidence scale such that great evidence of similarity may lead to an inference of an opportunity to copy, and thus lessen the requirements of proof of opportunity. The Court rejected this argument; and after having held that similarity must support the inference of copying independent of the opportunity to copy, the Circuit Court found that although the meetings with John Monopoly establish the opportunity to copy the original, the similarities between the two songs are, as a matter of law, not sufficient to sustain the claim. The motion to dismiss was AFFIRMED.