The BlackEyed Peas’ big hit I Gotta Feeling did not infringe on copyrights for the dance version of Take a Dive, because the latter’s song writer, Bryan Pringle, failed to prove that (1) Peas had access to his work and (2) that the two songs are substantially similar, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled, upholding the findings of a lower court, which thanks to EntLawDigest, can be read here.) The lower court had rebuked the plaintiff and counsel over how crucial case evidence got handled — or mishandled.
Pringle wrote and recorded Take a Dive, then filed and was issued registration with the U.S. Copyright Office on April 29, 1998. He further created a derivative dance version but failed to register that tune with the Copyright Office until November, 2010. In 2009, the BlackEyed Peas recorded and released I Gotta A Feeling, which became an instant hit. Billboard reported that “Feeling” “set a record…for the longest successive No. 1 chart run by a duo or group in the Billboard Hot 100’s history,” and was “the best-selling digital song of all time.” The Peas made the song available on Beatportal.com, where the “‘stems” or component parts of Feeling, including the guitar twang sequence, were available for download.
In February, 2010, Pringle heard Feeling and believed it infringed his dance “Take a Dive,” suing the Peas in October,2010. The dance Take a Dive contains an eight-bar guitar twang sequence that was not part of the original song. And when Pringle filed his new work with the Copyright Office in November, 2010 (one month after filing his Peas suit), officials refused to register the twang “[b]ecause [the] work does not contain enough original musical authorship to be copyrightable.” The District Court held that Pringle’s copyright registration in the dance version was invalid because he did not deposit a proper “copy,” rather, he provided the Office with a reconstruction of the original. The court found that Pringle holds a valid registration on the original song.
A key element in the case — and which the district court said helped lead it to award summary judgment to defendants — concerned evidence on Pringle’s computer hard drives, which the defendants said could show head backdated elements of his musical work to support his litigation; the court noted that he changed stories about the devices’ availability and then willfully destroyed them. The court considered whether to sanction him and his counsel but decided that dismissal of the case was sufficient punishment.
Below is a comparison the two songs: