Holy UnIP: No Copyright Protection for a Blessing

On February 5, 2014, in Copyrights, by Brian A. Hall

UnIntellectual Property (UnIP): Copyright for a Blessing

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim stemming from plaintiff’s copyright infringement lawsuit against defendant.  Plaintiff produces gift items personalized with poetry verses for special occasions and then sells them on its website, www.poetrygifts.com. Defendant sells the same types of personalized gift items on various websites, including www.giftsforyounow.com. Plaintiff alleged that the defendant unlawfully used the verse “May the strength of the Holy Spirit be with you, guiding you every day of your life” on its merchandise.

The Court disposed of the lawsuit stating: “The short verse “May the strength of the Holy Spirit be with you, guiding you every day of your life” is too common and unoriginal to receive copyright protection in itself. The excerpt is a common expression of a blessing. The expression, “May the strength of the Holy Spirit be with you,” is of a kind with the common blessings “May the strength of the Lord be with you,” “May the Lord be with you,” or “God be with You,” which are widely used and decidedly not original to PKI. Blessings invoking the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit are simply too ubiquitous to warrant copyright protection.”  In doing so, it refused to find copyright infringement or any violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).

This decision, to me, comports with black letter law: no copyright protection in a phrase.  See US Copyright Circular.  I love the verse and blessing, and I wish better guidance would have been with it on that particular day.

Pers. Keepsakes, Inc. v. Personalizationmall.com, Inc., 11 C 05177, 2013 WL 5348329 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 24, 2013).

 

 


 

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