Elton John is freed from the accusation that he lifted off the words of his 1985 hit "Nikita" from a song by a photojournalist slash songwriter Guy Hobbs. A federal judge has dismissed the lawsuit filed by Hobbs after John argued that he would never steal lyrics from a little known songwriter and that the theme of his song is too general.
In Hobbs' claim, he wrote a song called "Natasha" 29 years ago after he got romantically involved with a Ukrainan waitress on board a Russian cruise ship. His ballad talked about the impossible love between a Western man and Ukrainian woman during the Cold War. He then sent the lyrics to several music producers but did not get published.
Hobbs said he found out about John's "Nikita" in a song book in 2001 and was immediately shocked to find out their similarities. "Nikita" talked about an impossible love between a Western man and East German woman during the Cold War. It appeared on the Grammy-winning singer's "Ice on Fire" album and entered singles charts in both U.K. and U.S.
U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve took notice that there were some phrases that were the same in the two songs such as "you'll never know" and "I need you." She noted, "Of these listed similarities, there are certain themes or ideas that Hobbs argues are protected under the Copyright Act, including the impossible love affair during the Cold War, a postal theme, and references to a woman's pale eyes."
However, "these themes are not protected under the Copyright Act because they are rudimentary, commonplace, and standard under the scenes a faire doctrine. Moreover, phrases and themes that are common, trite, or cliched are not protected under copyright laws." She concluded, "In other words, the ubiquity of the common sayings sprinkled throughout both 'Nikita' and 'Natasha,' along with the repeated use of these commons phrases and sayings in other songs, establish that Defendants' lyrics to 'Nikita' do not infringe on Hobbs' lyrics to 'Natasha'."