WASHINGTON — 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.