Did John Bolton steal Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song title?

Feb 9 2020      On Behalf of  David M. Duree & Associates, P.C.      Intellectual Property Litigation

When former National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that his memoir would be published soon, the news was met with considerable media hoopla. The title alone — The Room Where It Happened — created a lot of buzz on Twitter.

People wondered how Bolton could use the title of the most popular song from the smash Broadway musical Hamilton. Celebrities and fans alike reached out to the show’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda to find out what he was going to do. One theater critic wrote, “Wonder how @Lin_Manuel feels about Bolton borrowing from him?” Another tweeted, “Wow. Bolton calling his book The Room Where It Happened. An ideologue from an administration so dismissive of culture, appropriating the words of an artist.”

Well, the titles aren’t exactly the same. The song from Hamilton is actually, “The Room Where It Happens” (present tense rather than past). As one Midwestern newspaper columnist points out, Bolton’s title “is probably just different enough from that of “Hamilton’s” signature act-two number…to avoid copyright problems.”

Despite the outcry from Hamilton fans and theater critics, there’s been no public comment (at least yet) from Miranda or from Bolton’s publishers Simon & Schuster. Hamilton is still running strong throughout the U.S. and abroad, so it’s unlikely that its creators feel threatened by what seems to be a clear appropriation of the show’s signature tune.

However, every situation is different. If you believe that any aspect of your intellectual property has been stolen or misused or if you’ve been accused of using someone else’s IP, it’s wise to talk with an experienced attorney to determine what your options are.