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Hobbs v John, 12-3652 (7th Cir. 2013)

Hobbs v John, 12-3652 (7th Cir. 2013)

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Published by: Christopher S. Harrison on Sep 01, 2013
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03/25/2014

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In the
United States Court of Appeals
 For the Seventh Circuit
 
No. 12-3652G
UY
H
OBBS
 ,
 
Plaintiff-Appellant
 ,
v.
E
LTON
 J
OHN
 , also known asSir Elton Hercules John, et al.,
Defendants-Appellees.
 
Appeal from the United States District Courtfor the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.No. 12-CV-03117
 — 
Amy J. St. Eve
 ,
 Judge
.
 
A
RGUED
M
AY
31,
 
2013
 — 
D
ECIDED
 J
ULY
17,
 
2013
 Before F
LAUM
 ,
 
M
ANION
 , and R
OVNER
 ,
Circuit Judges.
M
ANION
 ,
Circuit Judge.
While working on a Russiancruise ship, Guy Hobbs composed a song entitled“Natasha” that was inspired by a brief love affair hehad with a Russian waitress. Hobbs tried to publishhis song, but was unsuccessful. A few years later, Elton John and Bernie Taupin released a song entitled “Nikita”through a publishing company to which Hobbs had sent
 
2No. 12-3652a copy of “Natasha.” Believing that “Nikita” was basedupon “Natasha,” Hobbs eventually demanded compensa-tion from John and Taupin, and ultimately filed suitasserting a copyright infringement claim and tworelated state law claims. The defendants moved todismiss Hobbs’s complaint for failure to state a claim,and the district court granted the defendants’ motion.Hobbs appeals. We affirm.
I. Facts
In 1982, Guy Hobbs began working as a photographeron a Russian cruise ship where he met and romanced aRussian waitress. His experience inspired him to write asong entitled “Natasha” about an ill-fated romance be-tween a man from the United Kingdom and a womanfrom Ukraine. In 1983, Hobbs registered his copyrightof “Natasha” in the United Kingdom, and subsequentlysent the song to several music publishers. One of thosepublishers was Big Pig Music, Ltd. (“Big Pig”), a companythat published songs composed by Elton John andBernard Taupin. Ultimately, Hobbs’s efforts to find apublisher for his song proved unsuccessful.However, in 1985, John released a song entitled “Nikita,wherein the singer (who is from “the west”) describesheartfelt love for Nikita, whom the singer “saw . . . by thewall” and who is on the other side of a “line” held in by“guns and gates.” Big Pig registered the copyrightfor “Nikita,” and the copyright application lists both Johnand Taupin. “Nikita” proved to be extremely successful.
 
No. 12-36523
Although Hobbs brought his action twenty-seven years
1
after “Nikita” was authored and eleven years after Hobbsallegedly first encountered “Nikita,” the defendants did notraise the three-year statute of limitations,
see
17 U.S.C. § 507(b),as a defense in their motion to dismiss.Although Hobbs did not attach the lyrics of either “Natasha”
2
or “Nikita” to his complaint, the two songs are the centralfocus of the complaint.
See Wright v. Associated Ins. Cos.
 , 29F.3d 1244, 1248 (7th Cir. 1994) (“[D]ocuments attached to amotion to dismiss are considered part of the pleadings if theyare referred to in the plaintiff’s complaint and are central tohis claim.”). Furthermore, Hobbs does not challenge thedistrict court’s reliance on the lyrics of the two songs inruling on the defendants’ motion to dismiss.
Hobbs alleges that he first encountered the writtenlyrics of “Nikita” in 2001. Believing that “Nikita” infringedhis copyright of “Natasha,” Hobbs sought compensationfrom John and Taupin, but his requests were apparentlyrebuffed. Consequently, in 2012, Hobbs sued John,Taupin, and Big Pig in the Northern District of Illinoisfor copyright infringement in violation of the CopyrightAct of 1976. Hobbs also asserted two related state law
1
claims. The defendants moved to dismiss Hobbs’sentire complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the FederalRules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim.
2
In opposing the defendants’ motion, Hobbs identifieda number of allegedly similar elements between the twosongs. He argued that his selection and combination ofthose elements in “Natasha” constituted a unique ex-pression entitled to copyright protection, and that the

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