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May 31st, 2012

Oklahoma City Man Wastes 2 Years of Court’s Time with Preposterous Copyright Lawsuit

On Monday, May 28th, the United States Supreme Court rejected a man’s ludicrous copyright claim in a case that is too outlandish to be made up.  In 2007, Charles Syrus wrote a song in support of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team.  The song included original and creative lyrics such as “Let’s go Thunder.”  As the professional basketball team began to see more and more success, the phrase, apart from the song, became an integral part of supporting the club. 

In October of 2010, Syrus filed a lawsuit against the team in the Oklahoma Western District Court seeking somewhere between 20-30% of the team’s net worth.  His ridiculous argument was that any signage, clothing and cheers used by the Oklahoma City fans, cheerleaders and mascot that included the phrase “Let’s Go Thunder” infringed on his copyright, since he had clearly made those things up out of thin air and whole cloth using his own innate and unique brilliance.

Unfortunately for Syrus, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the decision by both the District Court and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and rejected Syrus’ claim.  The Supreme Court, in a more polite way than was deserved, ruled that, “We need not decide whether the general rule against copyrighting short phrases admits of exceptions based on the level of creativity because we easily conclude that the phrases ‘Go Thunder’ and ‘Let’s Go Thunder’ do not reflect the minimal creativity required for copyright protection…The phrases are merely predictable variations on a cheer widely used in sports, that is, ‘Go’ or ‘Let’s Go’ combined with the name of the team for which the cheer is uttered.”

While the verdict gives hope that all reasonableness has not escaped the American court system, the fact that this frivolous case wasted 2 full years of the country’s court resources is maddening.  Syrus did not deserve to have a room full of respected legal minds ponder the ridiculousness of his self-absorbed claim.

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