In an opinion last week, Judge Cote dismissed a copyright infringement case brought by the maker of certain “HomeGirl Hotline” TikTok videos against the comedian Michael Che, arising out of sketches on Che’s television show involving a fictional mobile app called “homegrrl.”
Both the plaintiff’s videos and Che’s sketches generally involved calling upon a “homegirl” to help in social situations, the former via phone call (the “HomeGirl Hotline”) and the latter via mobile app (“homegrrl”). In one TikTok video, for example, “the dispatched HomeGirl throws a cheating husband’s belongings out of the house,” and in one of Che’s television sketches, a “Homegrrl” is dispatched to assist a male driver who gets into a car accident with a female driver.
Judge Cote dismissed the case because she found that the general concepts forming the basis of the plaintiff’s claims were not protectable under copyright law:
The idea of hiring a homegirl to fight battles . . . is not protectible. Similarly, depicting a concept in an order-and-arrival structure is not protectible. In fact, this order-and-arrival structure flows naturally from the general premise of hiring a service to address a problem. The service a customer orders necessarily arrives after one requests it. Any similarity in the structure of the sketches in the Episode and the Videos is simply traced to a reliance on a scene a faire.