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'Let's Go Thunder' copyright claim is rejected by U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from a man who claimed common fan phrases for the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA team were protected by copyright since he put them in a song.
by Chris Casteel Modified: May 29, 2012 at 9:14 pm •  Published: May 29, 2012

— The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from a man who claimed the phrases “Go Thunder” and “Let's Go Thunder” were protected by copyright because he put them in a song about Oklahoma City's NBA team.

Without comment, the high court rejected the case from Charles A. Syrus, who sued the team's ownership group and wanted 20 to 30 percent of the team's “net gross” because the mascot, cheerleaders and fans used the phrases and the team included them on signs.

A U.S. district judge in Oklahoma City and a federal appeals court also rejected Syrus' claims.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a November opinion that common phrases aren't protected by copyright simply because they're in a song that has copyright registration.

“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 court said. “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.”

The Supreme Court on Monday effectively affirmed the appeals court decision.

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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In other action at the Supreme Court

• CONVICTION RESTORED: The court overturned a decision that would have released a man convicted of helping to kill a woman nearly two decades ago. A federal appeals court ruled there wasn't enough evidence to uphold the conviction of Lorenzo Johnson. But the high court said it is up to juries to decide what conclusions should be drawn from evidence presented at trial.

• STUN GUNS: The court decided it will not review the appropriateness of stun guns used by police on suspects, including a case in which Seattle officers repeatedly used a Taser on a pregnant woman during a 2004 traffic stop. Some law enforcement groups had hoped the court would clarify the issue.

• BRIDGE COLLAPSE: The court will not block Minnesota's lawsuit against a design firm over the deadly 2007 interstate bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 people. The justices did not comment in turning down an appeal by Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. of Pasadena, Calif.

Associated Press


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