1:17-cv-20788 (S.D. Fla. 2017)
“Yo Soy Boricua”
Advertisement for Spanish language Sesame Street
Comment by Charles Cronin
The complaint (linked below) asserts that the defendant’s Sesame Street advertisement infringes upon the unfortunately named plaintiff [Bosh]’s hit “Yo Soy Boricua” but never specifies how it does so. In fact, the only commonality between the two works is the phrase “Yo Soy Boricua” [“I’m Puerto Rican” or “I’m Puerto Rico”] chanted ad nauseum in the plaintiff’s recording of his noisy number, and spoken several times in the high voice of a child in defendant’s ad. Of course copyright does not protect the brief declarative phrase “Yo Soy Boricua” any more than it does “I’m American” and there are no musical similarities whatever between the pop number and TV advertisement.
The brief phrase may evoke the plaintiff’s song in the minds of those who have heard it, but such an association is not the basis for copyright protection. For example, in the 1980s American politicians used the short expression “Where’s the beef?” which conjured, in the minds of many, a then widely broadcast ad for Wendy’s, the fast food chain. “Where’s the beef” is not copyrightable expression and, like Joel Bosh in the “Boricua” dispute, Wendy’s could not prevent politicians and others from using it simply because the company had used the expression in their broadly disseminated ads.
In its Answer (below) defendant Univision claims it had no connection to the Plaintiff’s work, not having produced or aired the allegedly infringing son. Moreover, according to Univision, Bosh submitted to the court a copy of a service mark registration to support his claim of copyright infringement! The case was dismissed some months after it was initiated.
The claim against Universal was one of a handful of similar trademark, copyright infringement, and moral rights (?!) claims Bosh made over the past decade against a number of deep-pocketed defendants, including Sony, T Mobile, and EMI. From Sony, at least, Bosh managed to extract a “settlement” of $45,000.
Defendant’s Answer: PDF
District Court’s Order of Dismissal: PDF