Childish Gambino Beats Rapper’s Copyright Lawsuit Over ‘This Is America’: ‘Entirely Different’
After pointing out key lyrical differences, a federal judge said simply: "No more airtime is needed to resolve this case."
A Manhattan federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit accusing Donald Glover of ripping off his chart-topping Childish Gambino hit “This Is America” from an earlier song, ruling that the two tracks are “entirely different.”
A rapper named Kidd Wes (real name Emelike Nwosuocha) sued in 2021, claiming Glover’s 2018 song was “practically identical” to his own 2016 called “Made In America.” But in a decision issued Friday (March 24), U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero said they were anything but.
“A cursory comparison with the challenged composition reveals that the content of the choruses is entirely different and not substantially similar,” the judge wrote.
In reaching that conclusion, Judge Marrero briefly explained how Nwosuocha’s lyrics were a “short, simple, self-aggrandizing proclamation,” while Glover’s song was about “what America means and how it is perceived.”
“More could be said on the ways these songs differ, but no more airtime is needed to resolve this case,” the judge wrote.
In a statement to Billboard, Nwosuocha’s attorneys Imran H. Ansari and La’Shawn N. Thomas said their client was “understandably disappointed” and considering appealing the ruling. “He stands by his music, creativity, and the independence of grassroots artists to create their own music, and receive credit where credit is due, without the fear of it being apportioned by another.”
Released in 2018, “This Is America” spent two weeks atop the Hot 100 and eventually won record of the year and song of the year at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. It was accompanied by a critically acclaimed music video, directed by Hiro Murai, that touched on issues of race, mass shootings and police violence.
Nwosuocha sued in May 2021, claiming there were “unmissable” similarities between the song and his own “Made In America,” including the “flow” — the cadence, rhyming schemes, rhythm and other characteristics of hip hop lyrics.
“The distinctive flow employed in defendant Glover’s recorded performance of the infringing work’s chorus … is unmistakably substantially similar, if not practically identical, to the distinct and unique flow that was employed by Nwosuocha,” his lawyers wrote at the time.
But in Friday’s decision, Judge Marrero said the “flow” and other similar characteristics “lack sufficient originality” to be protected by copyrights. And “no reasonable jury” could find that the lyrics themselves were similar enough to constitute copyright infringement, the judge said.
The judge also ruled that the case failed for an even simpler reason: That Nwosuocha had failed to secure a federal copyright registration for the underlying composition to his song. “Accordingly, dismissal of Nwosuocha’s complaint is warranted.”
In a statement to Billboard, Glover’s attorney Jonathan D. Davis said he and his client were “very grateful” for the court’s ruling: “No case existed here, as there was no infringement – let alone a copyright registration. That was obvious from a simple comparison of the two songs and a review of the U.S. Copyright Office records.”