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  • Writer's pictureEsther Bae

Vincent Peters v. Kanye West “Stronger”

In 2010, Vincent Peters sued Kanye West for infringing his song “Stronger”. The defending work was a Kanye West song of the same name, a big hip-hop hit released in 2007. Peters claimed that West illegitimately copied his song (mainly, his lyrics). Peters went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which decided in West’s favor. Peters failed to prove substantial similarity between his “Stronger” and West’s “Stronger”.

It is a complainant’s job to prove that someone committed a copyright infringement on his or her work. Peters seems to have successfully proved his ownership of the work and West’s access to his song, but not substantial similarity between the two works. Peters argued that he met West’s producer John Monopoly, and pitched his songs to him. The pitched songs included the complaining work, “Stronger”, and West’s “Stronger” was released within a year of the incident.

The similarities between the two songs include a reference to Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous aphorism “What does not kill him, makes him stronger,” the chorus rhyme pattern, and using Kate Moss as a symbol of a beautiful woman. The judge dismissed the allegation since Nietzsche’s dictum has been used for decades, the rhyming lines were similar in method instead of content, and copyright law does not consider using someone’s name as an infringement of copyright.

Even though the complainant succeeded in proving the access to his work, it was not enough to win the case due to the insufficient amount of similarity. I agree with the court decision in that making use of aphorisms is very common in pop culture, and the similar parts of the lyrics are mostly just words rather than phrases. However, I do think that West might have borrowed Peters’ lyrics or been inspired by his song. Although Nietzsche's dictum has been popular with pop musicians, I think that the combination of Nietzsche’s saying, the Kate Moss reference, and the same title is highly unlikely to be an accident. West’s release of “Stronger” came less than a year after the meeting between Monopoly and Peters, too. However, I agree that it was not enough to prove that West actually infringed Peters’ work.



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