In Tejano Case, Virtually Identical Opening Lines Of Song Does Not Mean Per Se Striking Similarity; 5th Cir.

Guzman v. Hacienda Records, No. 15-40927 (5th Cir. Dec. 14, 2015).

Affirming judgment after a bench trial, the Fifth Circuit held that the District Court did not err in finding lack of access to the song (despite radio play and live performances) and that the songs were not strikingly similar even though the first lines were virtually identical (because there was no evidence of uniqueness or complexity).  Applying the "clearly erroneous standard," the 5th Circuit declined to second guess the District Court's findings.

Tejano Music Infringement Claim Fails Because No Access And Not Enough Similarity

Guzman v. Hacienda Records & Recording Studio, Inc., No. 6:12-CV-42, 2014 BL 344493 (S.D. Tex. Dec. 09, 2014).

After a bench trial, the Court dismissed plaintiff's copyright infringement claim because the alleged infringers did not have access to plaintiff's work nor were the two works strikingly similar.  This case is about two Tejano songs -- a hugely popular style of music in Corpus Christi from the 1970s through the 1990s, that is a a fusion of the Mexican and German influences in Texas. Although the Court found that substantial similarity existed between the songs, the Court declined to find the much higher standard of striking similarity, which is necessary for a finding of factual copying without any proof of access.  The Court also found that the evidence did not support a finding that defendants had access to plaintiff's song. The Court concluded that it was purely speculative that anyone associated with defendant heard plaintiff's song on the radio on the occasions when it was actually played, or ever heard it performed live.  "Because [plaintiff] has not shown a reasonable possibility that Defendants had access to his song, he cannot show that they copied it and his copyright infringement claim fails".