In a surprising turn of events, Donald Glover, known by his stage name Childish Gambino, has emerged victorious in a high-profile lawsuit involving allegations of plagiarism.
Kidd Wes, whose real name is Emelike Nwosuocha, had accused Gambino of plagiarizing his 2016 song “Made in America” with the Grammy award-winning track “This is America.”
The lawsuit also named Roc Nation and Young Thug as defendants.
Kidd Wes initially claimed that the hook of Gambino’s#### song was “unmistakably substantially similar, if not practically identical,” to his own track.
Both songs feature a staccato type of flow, with Gambino’s lyrics reading, “This is America / Guns in my area / I got the strap / I gotta carry ’em,” while Kidd Wes raps, “Made in America / Flex on the radio / Made me a terrorist / Pessimistic n##### / You should just cherish this.”
The deciding factor in the case was a technicality related to how Kidd Wes registered his copyright with the United States Library of Congress.
During the course of the legal proceedings, it was discovered that there was an issue with how Kidd Wes had registered his copyright with the United States Library of Congress.
The court decided that Kidd Wes’ copyright claim is not valid because he does not have a copyright registration for the music itself, only for the recorded version of the song. Kidd Wes’ argument that he has a copyright registration for the music is not supported by facts, Judge Victor Marrero ruled.
Kidd Wes says he used one registration to cover both the recording and the music, which is allowed by the Copyright Office under certain conditions. Those conditions are that the music and recording are on the same record, the author is the only performer, and the author owns the copyright for both.
However, just because the Copyright Office allows one registration for both the recording and the music does not mean Kidd Wes’ registration covers both. In fact, his registration certificate only covers the sound recording.
So, Kidd Wes did not get both a recording and music copyright registration with one submission, and he doesn’t have the necessary copyright registration for his claim.
This technicality proved to be a crucial factor in the case, ultimately leading to Childish Gambino’s victory.
As a result, Childish Gambino, Roc Nation, and Young Thug have all been cleared of plagiarism allegations, but Kidd Wes has 30 days to appeal the ruling.
But it will be an uphill battle since Judge Marrero also ruled that the songs were not really that similar.
“Even if [Kidd Wes] had a copyright registration for the composition of [Childish Gambino’s] Composition, however, dismissal would be warranted here because the elements of [Childish Gambino’s] Composition purportedly infringed upon are insufficiently original to warrant protection, or because they are not substantially similar to the Challenged Composition,’ Judge Marrero concluded.