Photographer Guy Hobbs claimed that several years before Big Pig Music published “Nikita,” he sent “Natasha” to the publisher. His song, inspired by a love affair he had with a Russian waitress, was never released. Big Pig Music also was a defendant in his copyright infringement suit.
But the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, even though “Nikita” also had a theme of love between a Western man and a Communist woman, “each song expresses this general idea differently.”
“That is, ‘Natasha’ and “Nikita’ tell different stories about impossible romances during the Cold War,” the appellate court said in a decision issued on Wednesday. They noted that “Natasha” tells the story of an actual, brief romantic encounter between a man from the United Kingdom and a woman from Ukraine, while “Nikita” tells the take of a man who sees and loves a woman from afar.
The three-judge panel did note that both songs “make liberal use of repetition — including repeatedly using the word ‘never,’ the phrases ‘to hold you’ and ‘you’ll never know,’ as well as the beloved’s name. Additionally, each song’s title is a Russian name beginning with the letter ‘N’ and ending with the letter ‘A.'”
Yet the judges ruled that “while these similar elements are present at the level of expression, they are also rudimentary, commonplace, standard, or unavoidable in popular love songs. Repetition is ubiquitous in popular music.”
Their decision upholds a district court dismissal of the suit, which was filed last year.
Tom Ferber and Ilene Farkas of Pryor Cashman represented the publisher, John and Taupin. Hobbs was represented by Daniel Voelker of Voelker Litigation Group.