In 1985, Elton John had a Top 10 hit on the Billboard 200 with “Nikita,” the jaunty ballad about unrequited love during the Cold War.
This week, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a suit claiming that John and his longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin plagiarized the hit from “Natasha,” a song submitted to John’s publisher years before “Nikita” hit the charts.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Natasha” songwriter Guy Hobbs asked the court to acknowledge the similarities between the two songs, including “a theme of impossible love between a Western man and a Communist woman during the Cold War,” and “references to written correspondence to the beloved.”
Despite Hobbs’ claim that the songs shared too many “unique combinations” to be a coincidence, the court didn’t agree, stating that copyright law does not cover general ideas, but the specific expression of an idea. While the court conceded that the two songs had some similar characteristics, many of them are “rudimentary, commonplace, standard, or unavoidable in popular love songs.”
“Because ‘Natasha’ and ‘Nikita’ are not ‘substantially similar’ as a matter of law,” reads the decision, “Hobb’s copyright infringement claim fails as a matter of law.”