Kanye West invokes Nietzsche in copyright battle

November 28, 2011: 3:42 PM ET

A hip-hop artist claims Kanye West stole a phrase from him, even though it was made famous by Nietzsche and has since become a tiresome cliche. 

FORTUNE -- Who is the last person on Planet Earth you might expect to quote the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche? Of course, it's Kanye West. But in court papers defending against a copyright-infringement case, West claims that Nietzsche was the inspiration for some of the lyrics in his megahit "Stronger."

Or anyway, he's arguing that since the phrase came from Nietzsche (originally: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger"), the plaintiff in the case, Vincent Peters, can't claim it as his own.

If this fight -- over what has become a well-worn cliché heard every day in gyms across the land -- seems silly, that's because it is. Peters -- who calls himself Vince P -- has already lost one round in federal court; this is an appeal. Perhaps Peters was inspired by another Nietzsche quote: "All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth."

Peters claims that he gave a copy of his song, also called "Stronger" to Kanye West's manager, John Monopoly. That's right, John Monopoly. Two other similarities between in the songs: they both rhyme "stronger" with "wronger" in otherwise very different lines, and they both refer to supermodel Kate Moss. The district judge earlier declared that none of those things are copyrightable.

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