In this copyright infringement action, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants’ movie and companion album, both entitled Before I Self Destruct, infringe upon Plaintiff’s copyright in his book, The Preachers Son - But the Streets Turned Me Into a Gangster. Plaintiff is the author and sole owner of the copyright for the Book. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants infringed upon the
copyright of the Book by publishing and selling the Movie and the Album, both of which
Plaintiff contends derive their content from the Book.
The Court granted defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff avers that the film duplicates the generalized theme and story
of the book and amounts to actionable copying. "However, general plot ideas and themes lie in
the public domain and are not protected by copyright law." Continuing:
There is no doubt that the Book and Film do share similar characters, themes, as well as a similar setting. However, this s haring of common features is only natural since both works feature a protagonist who has a difficult upbringing and turns to a life of violence and street crime, a story which has long ago been part of the public domain and which has been the subject of numerous movies and television shows. Thus, both works may properly contain gang life in inner-city New Jersey, characters spending time in jail, the search for an ex-girlfriend upon release from prison, making love in the shower, obtaining money through criminal activity, purchasing fancy clothes and accessories with the proceeds of crime, shoot-outs, murder, and the loss of a parent.
The Court further held that commonly used words, phrases and cliches used in both the book and movie/album are not protectable. Also, Plaintiff's state common law claims were pre-empted by the Copyright Act.
Lastly, because the Court held that Defendants did not infringe on Plaintiff’s copyright, Plaintiff’s claims of vicarious and contributory infringement fail since they hinge on a preliminary finding of direct infringement.