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Rick Ross’s LMFAO lyric theft case thrown out over bad paperwork

By | Published on Tuesday 12 April 2016


Rick Ross’s lawsuit against LMFAO over the similarity between the lines “everyday I’m shuffling” and “everyday I’m hustling” has been dismissed, though mainly because of one of those always fun legal technicalities.

As previously reported, Ross sued LMFAO over their 2010 hit ‘Party Rock Anthem’ which contains the ‘shuffling’ line that is rather similar to the ‘hustling’ lyric in his 2006 track ‘Hustlin’. It had the makings of one of those classic copyright cases where a judge has to decide whether or not borrowing two thirds of a three word lyric is sufficient to constitute copyright infringement.

Last year the judge threw out one element of the legal battle relating to LMFAO’s use of their ‘shuffling’ lyric on merchandise, ruling that – even if there was a case for song theft over the half-borrowed lyric within ‘Party Rock Anthem’ as a song – the three word phrase in isolation couldn’t be infringement.

The rest of the case, however, has been thrown out because of bad paperwork on the part of Ross’s team. Unlike most other countries, copyrights are actually registered in the US, and it turned out there were problems with the registration of ‘Hustlin’. The problem not being a lack of registration, but the fact the song had been registered three times by different people.

Given that some of those registrations were by big music publishers, the judge argued, someone involved in the song should have spotted that problem long ago and fixed it. Or, at the very least, Ross’s legal team should have sorted out the registration issues before going legal over the LMFAO lyric.

With all that in mind, the judge overseeing the case wrote, according to The Hollywood Reporter: “Although plaintiffs have failed to carry their burden of showing proper registration and compliance with the Copyright Act’s statutory formalities, registration does not confer copyright, nor can an erroneous registration take it away”.

But, she added, “the failure to properly register a work will preclude an infringement action predicated on that work. And, while the court’s ruling here does not cancel the registrations, it does bar plaintiffs from bringing an infringement action because no valid registration exists”.

Concluding, the judge ruled: “Because plaintiffs do not hold a valid copyright registration and because plaintiffs have not established either legal or beneficial ownership of the exclusive right to prepare derivative works for ‘Hustlin’, plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment is DENIED and this case is DISMISSED”.

So the lesson here, I think, is that whether you’re shuffling or hustling, if you’re going to sue for copyright infringement in the US, sort out the registration forms first.