Kanye West has won the appeal of a dismissal of a copyright case filed against him by producer Vincent Peters.
In Vince Peters, p/k/a “Vince P.” v. Kanye West, et al., recording artist Kanye West and music companies Roc-A-Fella Records, LLC and UMG Recordings, Inc. had been accused of copyright infringement involving West’s Grammy Award-winning song Stronger.
Peters alleged that they had infringed his copyright by copying portions of Peters' song Stronger, including the well known maxim “that which does not kill me makes me stronger.”
Defense counsel moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that there were no protectable similarities between the two songs at issue.
The District Court of the Northern District of Illinois agreed and granted West's motion to dismiss on March 9, 2011.
The Court also rejected Vince P.’s argument that the original combination of the five words and phrases was protectable.
Lastly, the Court reviewed the two sets of lyrics and determined that lyrics were not substantially similar, and that, “just as a photographer can not claim copyright in the use of a particular aperture and exposure setting,” a common rhyme scheme does not qualify as original expression.
On August 20, 2012, in a decision written by Judge Wood, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision, finding that none of the allegedly similar words and phrases contained in the songs were protectable under copyright law.
The District Court had noted that the phrase was a hackneyed one, tracing it back to 19th century German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche:
"Although the fact that both songs quote from a 19th century German philosopher might, at first blush, seem to be an unusual coincidence, West correctly notes that the aphorism has been repeatedly invoked in song lyrics over the past century."