*Rick Ross’s lawsuit against LMFAO over a copyrighted catchphrase has hit a snafu, as that very copyright has now been called into question.
On New Year’s Eve, 2013, Ross along with his producers sued over LMFAO’s 2010 song, “Party Rock Anthem,” which contains the catchphrase “Everyday I’m shufflin’.” Ross alleged this was an infringement of “Hustlin’,” off of his own 2006 album and containing the lyric, “Everyday I’m hustlin’.”
On the road to trial, a Florida federal judge has made some important rulings including that a three-word phrase — at least for merchandising purposes — isn’t original enough to be copyrightable, according to The Hollywood Reporter’s Eriq Garner.
Also, during the course of proceedings, it was discovered that there were actually three copyright registrations on Ross’ “Hustlin.” The first application came on Feb. 28, 2006 from an entertainment attorney for the production team seeking registration for an unpublished musical work. The second came on June 28, 2006 from a Warner Bros. entity seeking registration for a published musical work. And the third came on Feb. 28, 2007 from a Sony entity.
In October, the judge sent a series of questions to the U.S. Copyright Office about the confusion. After review, Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante said her office should have refused to grant all three of the registrations. According to her letter, the earliest one was defective because by Feb. 28, 2006, “Hustlin'” phonorecords were already being distributed to numerous radio and nightclub disc jockeys and as such, the work wasn’t really unpublished. The latter two applications were defective because of the earlier registration as well as incorrect dates of creation listed on the applications.
On Feb. 10, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams ordered supplemental briefing about the meaning of this. In LMFAO’s brief, filed Monday, Pallante’s bombshell warrants dismissal of the lawsuit. “It is now too late for them to even attempt to create valid copyright registrations for purposes of maintaining this action even assuming that the material misrepresentations could be resolved by something other than a new basic registration for Hustlin’ and cancellation of the three invalid registrations,” states Barry Rothberg at Greenberg Traurig in a memorandum.
His argument is that a valid copyright registration is a mandatory element of a copyright infringement claim — and that the burden is on the plaintiff to demonstrate ownership.
Rick Ross’ side argues that registration doesn’t confer copyright, and while it might be a requirement to have a registration before filing a lawsuit, the PRO IP Act of 2008 states that a certificate of registration satisfies the requirement regardless of any inaccurate information.
Garner concludes: “If the case is dismissed, this would likely become good fodder for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to take up.”