Three Boys Music Corp. v. Michael Bolton
212 F.3d 477 (9th Cir. 2000)

  • The Isley Brothers recorded a song. Many years later, Bolton recorded a similar-sounding song. The Isley Brothers sued for copyright infringement.
    • Bolton argued that he couldn't remember ever hearing the Isley Brothers song and that he came up with his song all by himself (aka independent creation).
  • The Trial Court found for the Isley Brothers. Bolton appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that 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 there were two ways to establish access:
      • A particular chain of events is established between the plaintiff's work and the defendant's access to that work (like the defendant dealt with the same publisher as the plaintiff), or
      • The plaintiff's work was "widely disseminated."
    • The Court found that these were very fact-dependent issues so they would trust the jury's decision.
      • The Court noted that they personally thought that the Isley's evidence that the song had been widely disseminated was pretty weak.
        • The Isley Brothers had provided testimony from dee-jays that they had played the song on the radio in the city Bolton grew up in, and that Bolton really liked music similar to the Isley Brothers.