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Judge throws out chunk of Rick Ross/LMFAO copyright dispute

By | Published on Thursday 17 September 2015


A judge in Florida has thrown out a slice of a copyright dispute between Rick Ross and LMFAO over one three-word lyric.

Ross sued LMFAO last year over their 2010 hit ‘Party Rock Anthem’ because it contains the line “Everyday I’m shuffling” which, the rapper claims, is a rip off of his 2006 track ‘Hustlin’, which contains the lyric “Everyday I’m hustling”.

It’s one of those classic copyright cases that asks the question can borrowing three mere words constitute infringement? Though with the added complication, of course, that LMFAO actually sang ‘shufflin’ rather than ‘hustlin’.

Whether or not ‘Party Rock Anthem’ actually infringes ‘Hustlin’ is still to be decided but, while considering a claim for summary judgement, the judge overseeing the case threw out the part of the litigation relating to the use of the LMFAO lyric on merchandise.

On that point judge Kathleen Williams mused: “The question … is not whether the lyrics of ‘Hustlin’, as arranged in their entirety, are subject to copyright protection, the question is whether the use of a three word phrase appearing in the musical composition, divorced from the accompanying music, modified, and subsequently printed on merchandise, constitutes an infringement of the musical composition ‘Hustlin'”.

And the answer to that question, said Williams, is “no”. And anyway, she went on, “the average lay observer would not confuse t-shirts bearing the phrase ‘everyday I’m shufflin’ with the musical composition ‘Hustlin’, nor without reference to ‘Party Rock Anthem’ and ‘Hustlin’, would an average lay observer recognise the merchandise as having been appropriated from ‘Hustlin'”.

So hurrah for common sense judgements. Now let’s see how the core of this case turns out, on whether the LMFAO lyrics, when delivered within their song, infringe Ross’s copyright.