Nikita and Natasha – a story of unrequited love

August 2013

Music publishing


A songwriter called Guy Hobbs has failed in his plagiarism claim against Elton John and his co writer Bernie Taupin, after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a judge’s decision to dismiss his claim that Elton John had borrowed the lyrics for his 1985 hit “Nikita“. Hobbs had claimed Sir Elton’s song was copied from his song “Natasha” which Hobbs said he had submitted to Sir Elton’s publishing company prior to Sir Elton writing his hit. Hobbs claimed his song was based on his short romance with a Russian woman he met while working as a cruise ship photographer. The court helpfully fleshed out Hobb’s claim (who said the long delay in bringing the action was because he had never seen Taupin’s lyrics until 2001) and compared both songs noting that the alleged similarities extended to (1) A theme of impossible love between a Western man and a Communist woman during the Cold War; (2) References to events that never happened; (3) Descriptions of the beloved’s light eyes; (4) References to written correspondence to the beloved; (5) Repetition of the beloved’s name, the word “never,” the phrase “to hold you,” the phrase “I need  you,”    and some form of the phrase “you will never know;” and a (6) A title which is a one-word, phonetically-similar title consisting of a three-syllable female Russian name. The court then pointed out that unrequited love is a  common theme for songs, and the two songs tell different stories with “Natasha” telling the story of an actual, though brief, romantic encounter between a man from the United Kingdom and a woman from Ukraine which is severed because the woman must sail away whereas in in contrast, “Nikita” tells the tale of man who sees and loves a woman from afar. But that love can never find physical expression because the two are separated by “guns and gates” with Judge Daniel Manion saying for a three-judge appellate court “Even when the allegedly similar elements between the songs are considered in combination, the songs are not substantially similar”.

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