Shadrach Winstead, the author of The Preacher’s Son—But the Streets Turned Me into a Gangster, filed a suit in a federal district court against Curtis Jackson, who wrote and performed the songs on the CD Before I Self–Destruct and wrote, starred in, and directed the companion film of the same name. Winstead alleged that Jackson’s CD and film infringed the copyright of Winstead’s book. The court dismissed the complaint. Winstead appealed.
The U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed. A comparison of Winstead’s book and Jackson’s CD and film did not support a claim of copyright infringement. “A lay observer would not believe that Jackson’s album/CD and film copied protectable aspects of Winstead’s book. * * * Winstead’s book and Jackson’s works share similar themes and setting,” but “the story of an angry and wronged protagonist who turns to a life of violence and crime has long been a part of the public domain. * * * In addition, Winstead’s book and Jackson’s works are different with respect to character, plot, mood, and sequence of events.”
1. Which expressions of an original work are protected by copyright law?
2. Is all copying copyright infringement? If not, what is the test for determining whether a creative
work has been unlawfully copied?
3. How did the court in this case determine whether the defendant’s work infringed on the plaintiff’s
4. Is a claim of copyright infringement supported if two works’ share similar themes and setting, as
well as words and short phrases? Explain.
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