Plaintiff alleges copyright infringement for the appropriation of a single horn stab (“Horn Hit”) from Plaintiff’s work, Love Break. The Horn Hit is a single chord that is played eleven times in Defendants’ work, Vogue. The Court found that neither the chord nor the Horn Hit sound sufficiently original to merit copyright protection. Even if the alleged appropriation was subject to copyright protection, the Court found that any copying was de minimis. Accordingly, defendants were granted summary judgment.
The Court recognized that while a valid certificate of registration with the copyright office entitles Plaintiff to
a presumption of originality, Defendants may overcome this presumption by demonstrating that the Horn Hit is not original. The Court then concluded that, as a matter of law, the Horn Hit is not sufficiently original to merit copyright protection. "The Horn Hit is not a component of the 'hook' in Plaintiff’s Love Break nor is it accompanied by a lyric. As a result, the Court finds that this single chord is not sufficiently original to merit copyright protection".
The Court further found that even if the alleged appropriation was subject to copyright protection, Defendants’ use was de minimis. "Having listened to the sound recordings of Chicago Bus Stop, Love Break, and Vogue, the Court finds that no reasonable audience would find the sampled portions qualitatively or quantitatively significant in relation to the infringing work, nor would they recognize the appropriation. The Court finds that any sampling of the Horn Hit was de minimis or trivial." Lastly, there was also evidence of independent creation.