Swirsky v. Carey
376 F.3d 841 (9th Cir. 2004)

  • Swirsky wrote a song that was a minor hit. Later, Carey wrote a similar-sounding song that also became a hit. Swirsky sued for copyright infringement.
    • Swirsky admitted that most of Carey's song was not similar to his song, but that the chorus was substantially similar.
    • Swirsky had an expert witness testify about the songs' similarities.
  • The Trial Court granted summary judgment for Carey. Swirsky appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that there was a two-part test to determining infringement, the extrinsic test and the intrinsic test.
    • The Court found that Swirsky had failed to present a triable issue on the first part, the extrinsic test.
      • Basically, the Court said that they didn't think Swirsky's expert was good because he emphasized the similar parts of the works and deemphasized the dissimilar parts.
  • The Appellate Court reversed and remanded for trial.
    • The Appellate Court found that there is a two-part analysis for infringement:
      • The extrinsic test considers whether two works share a similarity of ideas and expressions as measured by external, objective criteria, and
      • The intrinsic test which is a subjective comparison that focuses on whether a reasonable audience would find the "total concept and feel" of the works to be similar.
    • The Court found that in order to be triable, there noted to be an "indicia of a sufficient disagreement concerning the substantial similarities of the two works." The Court found that Swirsky's expert adequately defined the similarities, so the case should be heard by a jury.