Abstract

In April of 2012 Guy Hobbs, a photographer from Cape Town, sued Elton John in the United States claiming copyright infringement of Hobbs’s song “Natasha”. Shortly after Hobbs had attempted -- without success -- in the early 1980s to have “Natasha” published, Elton John, and his lyricist Bernie Taupin, published a recording of their song “Nikita”. “Nikita”, like “Natasha”, shared the conceit of a romantic relationship thwarted by politically established physical barriers like the Berlin Wall.

The dispute was reported in the popular press as one between Hobbs and Elton John, yet the infringement claim was based entirely on alleged similarities between Hobbs and Taupin’s lyrics conveying a similar romantic quandary. By suing Elton John, Hobbs attempted to capitalize upon the fact that U.S. copyright law fuses authorship of words and music of songs into a single copyrightable work; even if Elton John contributed nothing to the lyrics of “Nikita”, as a co-author of the work he could be jointly liable for any copyright infringement associated with them . . . .

Disciplines

Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law | Intellectual Property Law | Law

Date of this Version

3-2014

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