Syrus v. Bennett

Plaintiff-Appellant Charles Syrus appealed a district court's dismissal with prejudice his pro se copyright infringement action for failing to state a claim under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In 2007, Plaintiff wrote a song for Defendant Oklahoma City Thunder, the city's professional basketball team in the National Basketball Association. He gave copies of his song (for which he had copyright registration) to the Oklahoma City Mayor's office, and unnamed coaches and cheerleaders for the team. Plaintiff claimed that various uses of phrases taken from his song's lyrics were chanted during games by the cheerleaders, mascot and crowd. He also claimed that Defendants used the phrases in advertising and on banners displayed at the team's home arena. The district court found that Plaintiff had not established a plausible claim, finding that the short phrases at the heart of his claim were not subject to copyright protection. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that Plaintiff's claims failed as a matter of law against both Defendants.