Disputed Work

Julio Iglesias’s “cover” of Johnny Halladay’s “J’ai oublié de vivre”

“Me Olvide de Vivir”

Audio Clip

Comment by Charles Cronin

 

The Plaintiff prefaces her second complaint (below) against Iglesias with Balzac’s well-known aphorism: “Behind every fortune is a crime.”  But her allegations suggest she believes Iglesias’s fortune resulted from tortious, not criminal, conduct. She initially claimed Iglesias never paid her royalties she was owed from her contributions to the words of the song “Me Olvide de Vivir” she co-authored with Iglesias. While the district court accepted her claim that she was a co-author of the words, it determined her tort claim was time-barred.

 

In a very peculiar response to this rejection, the Plaintiff submitted a fresh complaint (below) alleging copyright infringement by Iglesias based on a revised claim that she was the sole author, and copyright owner, of the words. This approach backfired badly given Plaintiff’s earlier representations under oath that she and Iglesias were co-authors of the text. The district court ultimately awarded Iglesias attorney’s fees. The 11th Circuit subsequently voided this award, but agreed with the district court’s finding that, with her second claim, Plaintiff “intended to make a mockery of the judicial system.”

 

Having disposed the claims on procedural grounds, neither the district or appeal courts addressed the copyrightability of the expression in question. This is an interesting issue because Iglesias’s “Me Olvide de Vivir” is derivative (i.e., a “cover”) of a song with the same title (“J’ai oublié de vivre”) made popular by French performer Johnny Halladay, from whom Iglesias obtained a license. Plaintiff Mimi Korman stated that the words she and Iglesias used hewed to the overall themes and “images” of Halladay’s text. If, however, they were determined to be closer to a translation than to an original work, perhaps they would qualify for only “thin” protection.

 

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Complaint: PDF

District Court Opinion: PDF

11th Circuit Opinion: PDF

 

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