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Jay-Z sues over hip hop themed AB(Jay)Z kids book

By | Published on Thursday 28 November 2019


Jay-Z has sued an Australia-based website that sells books and clothes for children that are heavily influenced by hip hop and wider music culture. The rapper says that the online store, called The Little Homie, is “deliberately and knowingly” exploiting his likeness, brand and lyrics without permission in a “flagrant, glaring” way.

The Little Homie was set up by hip hop fan Jessica Chiha who explains on her website that “whilst pregnant, the thought of becoming a parent frightened me a hell of a lot. I didn’t want to leave the life I knew behind me and lose myself in the process. This was the catalyst I needed to create something that I could better connect with my daughter with, by combining my new family with my love of hip hop”.

Chiha’s company sells t-shirts and books with kid-friendly representations of hip hop stars, lyrics and icons, as well as some products referencing other music genres and sport stars. Among the books are ‘First 50 Words With 50 Cent’, ‘123 With The Notorious BIG’ and ‘AB To Jay-Z’. It’s the latter that got this hip hop fan her very own hip hop beef.

Jay-Z’s legal team argue that The Little Homie has exploited his intellectual property rights without permission. Among other things, they take issue with a rework of one of his most famous set of lyrics on the back of ‘AB To Jay-Z’ which reads: “If you’re having alphabet problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but my ABCs ain’t one”.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Jay-Z’s reps say that they issued a cease-and-desist against Chiha in March last year but that her company continues to sell the offending products. The lawyers then add that those products were “calculated to injure, has injured and is continuing to injure the reputation and goodwill” of their client.

Although The Little Homie also has US and UK versions of its site, Jay-Z’s lawsuit has been filed in Chiha’s home country of Australia. Jurisdiction could be important in a case like this because the alleged infringements of copyright and trademark are not straight forward, and copyright exceptions or fair use principles might apply, but those vary greatly from country to country, as do rules around more general brand and image rights.

Chiha is yet to comment on the lawsuit though her website is still selling ‘AB To Jay-Z’ (in fact, it’s currently on offer at half price). It will be interesting to see what happens next.