Winstead v. Jackson, No. 11-3771 (3d Cir. opinion filed Jan. 11, 2013).
The Third Circuit affirmed an order of the District Court dismissing the amended complaint as to all defendants. In this copyright case, the parties respective works at issue include Plaintiff's book, The Preacher’s Son – But the Streets Turned Me into a Gangster, and defendant Curtis Jackson's (50 Cent's) Before I Self-Destruct album/CD, featuring songs and lyrics written by Jackson; and his companion film of the same name, which Jackson wrote, starred in, and directed. Jackson and the record companies moved to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6), arguing that the copyright infringement claim failed because Plaintiff's book and Jackson's album/CD and film are not substantially similar as a matter of law, and that Plaintiff's state law claims are preempted by the Copyright Act because they are premised on the same underlying facts. The Circuit Court affirmed dismissal, finding inter alia:
We agree with the District Court that a lay observer would not believe that Jackson's album/CD and film copied protectable aspects of [Plaintiff]'s book.
There was a failure to state an actionable claim for copyright infringement here because, although [Plaintiff]'s book and Jackson's works share similar themes and setting, the story of an angry and wronged protagonist who turns to a life of violence and crime has long been a part of the public domain.
In addition, [Plaintiff]'s book and Jackson's works are different with respect to character, plot, mood, and sequence of events.
[Plaintiff] contends that direct phrases from his book appear in Jackson's film. ... The average person reading or listening to these phrases in the context of an overall story or song would not regard them as unique and protectable. ... Moreover, words and short phrases do not enjoy copyright protection.