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Three Boys Music Corp. v Bolton Cases of Interest >  IP >  Copyright
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Three Boys Music Corp. v Bolton

Issue:
-Whether the District Court’s verdict is supported by substantial evidence and whether reasonable minds could find that D had a reasonable opportunity to have heard P’s song before they created their own song

Procedural History:
-District Court denied Bolton’s motion for new trial and affirmed jury’s award of $5.4 million finding there was copyright infringement
-Bolton appeals arguing that the District Court erred in finding that: sufficient evidence supported the jury’s finding that the appellants had access to the Isley Brothers’ song, sufficient evidence supported the jury’s finding that the songs were substantially similar, and subject matter jurisdiction existed based on the Isley Brothers registering a complete copy of the song
-This Court affirms – Bolton loses.

Facts:
-Isley Brothers wrote and recorded the song “Love is a Wonderful Thing” and received a copyright in 1964.
-United Artist released the song in 1966 on a single
-In 1991, the song was released on CD
-Bolton and Goldmark wrote a song with the same name and released it in 1990 on Bolton’s album
-Bolton said he has heard the Isley Brothers’ music and was a fan

Analysis:
-Copyright P must prove: ownership of the copyright and infringement
-Proof of infringement includes: Proof of access (reasonable opportunity to view or reasonable possibility to copy P’s work) and substantial similarity (inextricably linked)
-In determining proof of access the Court considered circumstantial evidence supporting that P’s work was widely disseminated and therefore, because Bolton admittedly was a fan of the Isley Brothers, the Court found proof of access
-In determining substantial similarity the Court uses a 2 part test: extrinsic and intrinsic
-Extrinsic evidence requires P to identify concrete elements based on objective criteria (such as expert opinions)
-Intrinsic evidence is subjective and asks “whether the ordinary, reasonable person would find the total concept and feel of the works to be substantially similar”
-The Court here found that the jury’s conclusion about access is supported by substantial evidence: both songs shared the same title hook phrase, shifted cadence, instrumental figures, verse/chorus relationship, and fade ending

Conclusion/Holding:
-Substantial evidence of copying based on access and substantial similarity was such that a reasonable juror could reject this defense
-Bolton infringed the copyright
-Must prove the work was widely distributed and Bolton had access and then get into substantial similarity test (extrinsic/intrinsic) and let the reasonable person decide whether intrinsically there is substantial similarity
-The District Court’s verdict for the P is affirmed.



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