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Selle v. Gibb

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
741 F.2d 896 (1984)


In 1975, Ronald Selle (plaintiff) received a copyright for a composition entitled “Let It End.” The song was not widely distributed or published. In 1978, Selle heard a song by the Bee Gees (defendants) entitled “How Deep Is Your Love” and thought the song infringed upon Selle’s copyright for “Let It End.” Selle sued the Bee Gees for copyright infringement. At trial, the Bee Gees introduced evidence of their creative process, including testimony and a tape documenting the creation of “How Deep Is Your Love.” Selle hired an expert witness to testify to the similarities between the two works. The expert was a professor of music and had extensive expertise in classical music. After explaining the similarities in note composition, the expert concluded that the two songs were so similar that they could not have been created independently from one another. The jury found for Selle, but the judge granted the Bee Gees’ motion for a new trial, finding that Selle had failed to prove the Bee Gees had access to “Let It End” and that the evidence of substantial similarity was inconsistent with the facts. Selle appealed the decision.

Rule of Law

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Holding and Reasoning (Cudahy, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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