Arnstein v. Porter
154 F.2d 464 (2d Cir. 1946)

  • Arnstein was a songwriter who had published a number of popular songs. He claimed that another songwriter named Porter had plagiarized some of his songs. He sued for copyright infringement.
    • Arnstein argued that Porter had 'stooges' fooling Arnstein around and had even ransacked his apartment and stole some of his unpublished songs!
    • Porter argued that he had never heard any of Arnstein's songs and that he came up with his songs himself (aka independent creation).
  • The Trial Court found for Porter in summary judgment. Arnstein appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that Porter's songs were not substantially similar.
      • The Court relied on the testimony of expert witnesses about the similarity of the songs.
  • The Appellate Court reversed and remanded.
    • The Appellate Court found that generally, there are two elements to establishing infringement:
      • There must be evidence that the defendant had access to the copyrighted work.
      • There must be evidence that the works are substantially similar.
    • The Court found that whether two songs were substantially similar enough to constitute copyright infringement was a matter of fact for a jury to decide.
      • So they remanded the case for a jury trial.