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Childish Gambino Prevails in ‘This Is America’ Copyright Lawsuit: Everything You Need to Know

Last Updated: July 1, 2023

Donald Glover scored a win earlier this month upon the premiere of Swarm, his new Amazon Prime original miniseries. Over the weekend, he scored another: He beating a copyright lawsuit over his 2018 hit “This Is America.”

Glover is known for his approaches to social commentary, whether it’s through television shows like Atlanta or hip-hop persona Childish Gambino. When “This Is America” and its accompanying Hiro Mirai-directed music video directed by dropped nearly five years ago, it had a notable impact on cultural and even political discourse online, touching on various societal issues from gun control to virality on social media. It has gone on to be viewed 873 million times on YouTube to date, stirring up significant conversations (and even a few conspiracy videos) around what it symbolizes in the bigger picture of hip-hop commentary.

But the track, which additionally won Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the 61st Grammy Awards in 2019, caught some legal blowback, too.

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“This is America” Lawsuit: Kidd Wes vs. Childish Gambino

In May 2021, Glover was informed that he was being sued for copyright infringement by rapper Kidd Wes, legally known as Emelike Nwosuocha. The latter rapper decided to take legal action in federal court over his claim that “This Is America” borrows directly from his 2016 song “Made In America.”

He and his lawyers posed the argument that the songs contained similarities like identical rhythms, lyrics, and composition. His team asked for a profit share in a minimum of 43 categories, from record sales and ringtones tones to endorsements and licensing and beyond.

Ultimately, Judge Victor Marrero of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York officially dismissed Nwosuocha’s lawsuit, noting that a “reasonable” jury would never rule that the lyrics to “This is America” were similar enough to rise to the level of copyright infringement, and further, he never secured federal copyright protections for “Made in America” in the first place.

“[A] cursory comparison with the challenged composition reveals that the content of the choruses is entirely different and not substantially similar,” Judge Marrero said. “More could be said on the ways these songs differ, but no more airtime is needed to resolve this case.”

As Glover lawyer Jonathan D. Davis added, “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 US Copyright Office records.”

If this is indeed America, everyone is allowed their day in court. For Kidd Wes, however, his days pursuing a legally ordained piece of the Childish Gambino pie are over.

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