GUY HOBBS x ELTON JOHN AND BERNIE TAUPIN -
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS, EASTERN DIVISION
GUY HOBBS, an individual, )
Plaintiff, ) Case No.
) PLAINTIFF DEMANDS
ELTON JOHN a/k/a SIR ELTON HERCULES ) TRIAL BY JURY
JOHN, an individual, BERNARD JOHN )
TAUPIN a/k/a BERNIE TAUPIN, )
an individual, and BIG PIG MUSIC LTD., )
a foreign business organization, form unknown, )
Plaintiff, GUY HOBBS, by and through his attorney, Daniel J. Voelker of the Voelker
Litigation Group, complains against Defendants, ELTON JOHN a/k/a SIR ELTON HERCULES
JOHN, BERNARD JOHN TAUPIN a/k/a BERNIE TAUPIN, and BIG PIG MUSIC LTD., as
I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE
1. This action is brought, and subject matter jurisdiction lies within this Court,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sections 1331 and 1338. This Court has federal question jurisdiction in
this matter in that Plaintiff seeks damages and injunctive relief against Defendants named herein
under Sections 501 through 505 of the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 101, et seq. This
Court has pendant jurisdiction over any claims asserted herein which arise under state law,
including, without limitation, claims seeking the imposition of a constructive trust and the
performance of an accounting, in that such claims flow from a common nucleus of operative
2. Venue lies within this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sections 1391(b)(2)-(3),
1391(c), 1391(d), and 1400(a) in that a substantial part of the acts and omissions giving rise to
Plaintiff’s claims occurred in this District. In particular, on information and belief, the corporate
defendant, Big Pig Music Ltd., among other things, carried (and carries) out substantial, ongoing
business activities in this District, and a substantial part of Defendants’ acts and omissions in
exploiting the musical composition at issue that give rise to Plaintiff’s claims for copyright
infringement occurred in this District as well.
3. Plaintiff, Guy Hobbs (“Hobbs”), is an individual who resides in Cape Town,
South Africa, and is a citizen of South Africa.
4. On information and belief, Defendant, Elton John a/k/a Sir Elton Hercules John
(“John”), is, and at times relevant hereto was, an individual residing in Windsor, United
Kingdom, and Atlanta, Georgia.
5. On information and belief, Defendant, Bernard John Taupin a/k/a Bernie Taupin
(“Taupin”), is, and at all times relevant hereto was, an individual residing in Santa Ynez,
6. On information and belief, Defendant, Big Pig Music Ltd. (“Big Pig”), is a
foreign business organization, form unknown, with its principal place of business located in
London, United Kingdom.
Defendants, John, Taupin, and Big Pig, are sometimes collectively referred to herein as
III. FACTS COMMON TO ALL CLAIMS
7. Hobbs is an award-winning freelance photojournalist. He was born in Australia,
but raised and educated in the United Kingdom.
8. After three years of studying photography at Salisbury Art College in the United
Kingdom, Hobbs took his first job as a photographer on a Russian cruise ship, the Taras
Shevchenko, at the beginning of 1982. While on board the Russian cruise ship, Hobbs became
romantically involved with one of the Russian waitresses. Their relationship occurred during the
height of the Cold war. The Russian crew could not leave the cruise ship, but Hobbs had the
freedom to travel anywhere he wanted.
9. Before leaving the Taras Shevchenko in the Spring of 1982, Hobbs was inspired
by his experiences with the Russian waitress to write a song in his cabin called “Natasha,” which
consists of wholly-original material. The song centers around an impossible love affair between
a Western man and a Russian woman during the Cold War. “Natasha” was, and is, a
copyrightable matter under the laws of the United States.
10. In April 1982, Hobbs transferred to a Greek ship. After a year at sea, he moved to
London for two years. On May 10, 1983, Hobbs registered his copyright of “Natasha” in the
United Kingdom through the process proscribed by the United Kingdom Intellectual Property
Office. In addition, he attempted to find someone to compose music to accompany his lyrics, but
could never connect with the right person.
11. Based on information he found in a quarterly magazine called “The Songwriter,”
which came out on or about September 1, 1984, Hobbs also forwarded the lyrics to “Natasha” to
several music publishers of male solo artists, asking them to consider publishing his lyrics and
assist him to connect with singer/songwriter collaborators. Big Pig was one of the music 4
publishing companies to which Hobbs sent his lyrics. At that time, he believed that Big Pig was
an independent publishing company. He was unaware that Big Pig’s sole purpose was to publish
only the songs written and composed by John and Taupin.
12. On November 11, 1983, Hobbs again registered his copyright of “Natasha” in the
United Kingdom, along with four other lyrics he had written.
13. In October 1984, having had no success with his lyrics, Hobbs returned to his
career as a photojournalist. He traveled to Africa to commence a series of photo essays for
international geographical magazines like GEO in Germany. He lived and worked in Africa for
the next ten years. Hobbs then owned his own photo agency, World Focus Features, in
Johannesburg, South Africa, for a few years. In the early 2000’s, Hobbs started a manufacturing
and distribution company in Cape Town, South Africa.
14. In 2001, Hobbs came across the written lyrics of “Nikita” for the first time in a
song book. “Nikita” involves an impossible love between a Western man and an East German
woman during the Cold War. When Hobbs read the lyrics, he was shocked by the many
similarities between the lyrics of “Nikita” and “Natasha.”
15. Since 2001, Hobbs has been consistently communicating with John, Taupin and
their attorneys demanding compensation for the unauthorized use of his lyrics for “Natasha.”
16. Hobbs registered a copyright for a collection of his lyrics entitled “Guy Hobbs
Lyric collection 1 (1982-2010),” which included the song “Natasha,” on January 13, 2011
(Registration Number PAu3537361).
17. John is an immensely successful solo artist who has recorded numerous Top Forty
hit songs and has achieved global stardom over the past 45 years. That success is based largely 5
on John’s collaboration with Taupin on over 30 albums to date, which have sold more than 250
18. On information and belief, Big Pig is owned entirely by John and Taupin and was
created to publish and promote their music. At all times at issue in this Complaint, Taupin wrote
poetical lyrics, independent of and usually in a different location to John. Then, John would
rework those lyrics into suitable song structures and compose a catchy melody. In late 1984 and
early 1985, Taupin’s and John’s creative process was under considerable strain because the two
were struggling to produce enough songs to fill two albums.
19. One of those two albums, Ice on Fire, contained the song “Nikita,” and was
released in late 1985. According to the copyright application, John and Taupin created the song
20. On information and belief, the song “Nikita” has appeared (and continues to
appear) on over 200 other albums, including compilation John albums and cover versions by
21. There are significant similarities between Hobbs’ composition, “Natasha” and
John/Taupin’s composition “Nikita”.
22. On information and belief, both John and Taupin copied and incorporated
substantial, original portions of Hobbs’ “Natasha” in their musical composition, “Nikita.”
23. On information and belief, both John and Taupin were aware of, participated in,
and contributed to the exploitation of the lyrics of “Natasha” in the United States of America,
including in this District, through sales of albums, CDs, digital downloads, radio and television
airplay, and otherwise. 6
24. On information and belief, John and Taupin have earned millions of dollars in
revenue through their exploitation of “Natasha” and continue currently to actively exploit the
lyrics worldwide, including in this District, through sales of CDs, radio and television airplay,
25. On information and belief, John’s and Taupin’s musical composition and sound
recording of “Nikita” was a top ten hit in most countries worldwide. “Nikita” is John’s third
most popular solo hit of his entire career, according to the average rankings of the major global
26. In 1986, John and Taupin received the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for
“Nikita” as the “Best Written Song of the Year.”
27. On information and belief, Big Pig copyrighted the musical composition entitled
“Nikita.” The Certificate of Registration for “Nikita” is identified as “PA0000267371 / 1985-11-
18.” The authorship on the application for words and music lists John and Taupin.
28. John and Taupin never sought or obtained Hobbs’ permission to copy, duplicate,
perform, or otherwise use his lyrics to “Natasha” in their musical composition and sound
recording of “Nikita.”
29. John and Taupin’s copying, duplication, use, performance, and exploitation of
“Natasha” in their musical composition and sound recording of “Nikita” constitutes infringement
of Hobbs’ copyright of the lyrics of the song “Natasha.”
30. John and Taupin’s infringing acts are willful, deliberate, and committed with prior
notice and knowledge of Hobbs’ authorship and copyright. At a minimum, Defendants acted in
reckless disregard of Hobbs’ authorship and copyright.7
31. On information and belief, each Defendant earned and received tens of millions of
dollars and other valuable benefits and consideration from their use of Hobbs’ lyrics “Natasha”
in their composition “Nikita”.
(COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT AS TO
“NATASHA” – AGAINST ALL DEFENDANTS)
32. Plaintiff repeats and realleges Paragraphs 1 through 31 of the Complaint as
Paragraph 32 of Count I of the Complaint as though they were fully pled herein.
33. Hobbs is, and at all relevant times has been, the sole owner of the copyright of the
lyrics “Natasha.” As such, Hobbs is entitled and authorized to protect his lyrics against
copyright infringement, including the enforcement of copyright actions.
34. On information and belief, since at least 1985, John and Taupin infringed, and are
currently infringing, upon Hobbs’ copyright of the lyrics to “Natasha,” including use of the lyrics
in Hobbs’ composition “Natasha” in John’s and Taupin’s musical composition and sound
recording of “Nikita” and causing the same to be publicly distributed in retail stores, on the
internet, by digital download, through radio and television airplay, and otherwise, including in
35. Hobbs did not authorize John or Taupin to copy, reproduce, perform, or use the
lyrics in Hobbs’ composition “Natasha” in their musical composition or sound recording of
“Nikita” or at all. Defendants did not seek or obtain any permission, consent, or license from
Hobbs for the copying, reproducing, performing, or using the lyrics in Hobbs’ composition
“Natasha” in the composition or recording of “Nikita,” or in any uses thereof that were made or
authorized by John or Taupin, or at all.8
36. Defendants’ infringing acts alleged herein are willful, deliberate, and committed
with prior notice and knowledge of Hobbs’ authorship and copyright. At a minimum,
Defendants acted in reckless disregard of Hobbs’ authorship and copyright.
37. Hobbs is also entitled to recover his attorneys’ fees and costs under 17 U.S.C.
(CONSTRUCTIVE TRUST – AGAINST ALL DEFENDANTS)
38. Plaintiff repeats and realleges Paragraphs 1 through 37 of the Complaint as
Paragraph 38 of Count II of the Complaint as though they were fully pled herein.
39. By virtue of their wrongful conduct, Defendants have illegally received money
and profits that rightfully belonged to Plaintiff.
40. Therefore, John, Taupin, and Big Pig are involuntary trustees, holding the gross
receipts from the product sales and revenues of “Nikita” to the extent attributable to “Natasha”
and attributable to the infringement of Hobbs’ copyright therein.
41. Defendants hold the moneys and funds referenced in Paragraphs 38 through 40
above on behalf of and subject to a first and prior lien against all others and in favor of Plaintiff.
On information and belief, Defendants hold this illegally received money and profits in the form
of bank accounts, real properties, and personal property that can be located and traced.
42. Hobbs is entitled to the remedy of a constructive trust in view of Defendants’
wrongful infringement of Hobbs’ copyright of “Natasha.”9
(ACCOUNTING – AGAINST ALL DEFENDANTS)
43. Plaintiff repeats and realleges Paragraphs 1 through 42 of the Complaint as
Paragraph 43 of Count III of the Complaint as though they were fully pled herein.
44. Under 17 U.S.C. Section 504, Plaintiff may recover any and all profits of
Defendants that are attributable to their acts of infringement.
45. A balance is due from John, Taupin, and Big Pig, and each of them, to Hobbs for
misappropriation of profits and gross receipts arising from or attributable to their copying,
reproducing, performing, and using Hobbs’ lyrics in his composition “Natasha” in John and
Taupin’s musical composition and sound recording “Nikita.”
46. The exact amount of money due from Defendants is unknown to Plaintiff at this
time and can be ascertained only through an accounting. Plaintiff seeks an order from this Court
directing Defendants to provide Plaintiff with an accounting and payment of the amount due as a
result of the accounting, plus interest.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff, GUY HOBBS, respectfully requests judgment against
Defendants, ELTON JOHN a/k/a SIR ELTON HERCULES JOHN, BERNARD JOHN TAUPIN
a/k/a BERNIE TAUPIN, and BIG PIG MUSIC LTD., and each of them, jointly and severally, as
1. That this Court enters judgment against Defendants, Elton John a/k/a Sir Elton
Hercules John, Bernard John Taupin a/k/a Bernie Taupin, and Big Pig Music Ltd., and each of
them, that Defendants have: (a) infringed Plaintiff’s rights in the copyright of the lyrics
“Natasha” under 17 U.S.C. Section 501, and that the infringement by Defendants, and each of 10
them, was willful; and (b) otherwise injured the business reputation and goodwill of Hobbs
through the acts and conduct set forth in this Complaint;
2. For the damages suffered by Plaintiff as a result of the infringement complained
of herein, as well as disgorgement of any profits from Defendants attributable to their
infringement, including the value of all gains, profits, advantages, benefits, and considerations
derived by Defendants from and as a result of their infringement of Plaintiff’s copyright of
3. In the alternative, if Plaintiff so elects, in lieu of recovery of his actual damages
and Defendants’ profits, for a 17 U.S.C. Section 504(c) award of statutory damages against
Defendants, or any of them, for all copyright infringements (willful or otherwise) involved in this
action as to each work in question;
4. That Defendants, and each of them, and each of their respective officers, agents,
and employees, and all persons acting in concert with them, be enjoined preliminarily, during the
pendency of this action, and permanently thereafter, from falsely marketing, advertising, and
promoting “Nikita” as a song written by John and Taupin;
5. That this Court enters an order pursuant to 15 U.S.C. Sections 503 and 509
mandating the impounding of all infringing copies of “Nikita” and any other materials prepared
by Defendants containing any copies of the musical composition or sound recording of “Nikita”
or any portions thereof;
6. That this Court declare, adjudge, and decree that John, Taupin, and Big Pig, and
each of them, have been and are involuntary constructive trustees, holding the gross receipts
from the copying, reproduction, performance, and use of “Nikita” to the extent attributable to 11
“Natasha” or their misuse of the protectable interests of Plaintiff in “Natasha,” and that John,
Taupin, and Big Pig, and each of them, hold all such monies and funds on behalf of and subject
to the first and prior lien against all others and in favor of Plaintiff;
7. That John, Taupin, and Big Pig, and each of them, be required to account for and
pay over to Plaintiff all gains and profits derived from or attributable to the copying,
reproduction, performance, or use of the lyrics in Plaintiff’s composition “Natasha,” or any other
uses of all or part of this song, made or authorized by John, Taupin, or Big Pig, or any of them,
in any format, media, or market, in connection with the musical composition and sound
recording of “Nikita”;
8. For reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs of suit incurred herein; and
9. For such other and further relief in favor of Plaintiff as this Court deems just and
By: /s/ Daniel J. Voelker
One of His Attorneys
Daniel J. Voelker, Esq.
VOELKER LITIGATION GROUP
311 W. Superior Street, Suite 500
Chicago, Illinois 60654
T: (312) 870-5430
F: (312) 870-5431
Dated: April 26, 2012