February 05, 2005

Great Moments in Intellectual Property Law

AND NOW, for something completely different:


As often happens in the hip-hop world, two rappers became embroiled in a dispute over who owned the rights to a song that utilized a popular phrase. And it took the musical ear of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to settle the matter.

Positive Black Talk Inc., et al. v. Cash Money Records, et al. plunged the conservative appellate court into the world of booming bass lines and popular street slang.

Chief Judge Carolyn Dineen King, who wrote the opinion, boiled the case down to a dispute between Louisiana rappers Juvenile and D.J. Jubilee over who owned the rights to a song "that included the poetic four-word phrase 'back that ass up.'"

We can assure readers the above is not a joke, but an actual news article from Texas Lawyer magazine. It's based on a Jan. 13 decision (see here and here) from the 5th Circuit.

Aside from the idea of rappers engaging in court battles -- we look forward to rap songs including the phrases injunctive relief and writ of mandamus -- what really makes the story funny are the people involved in deciding and analyzing the appeal. It's somewhat similar to the one funny scene in "Scary Movie 2," where the upper-crust partygoers gather 'round a piano to sing Mystikal's "Shake Ya Ass."

The judge who wrote the opinion, for instance, likes Brahms; the experts quoted in the story include practicing IP attorneys and university professors. However, lest music lovers fear the case was entirely out of order, we would note a jury originally found for the defendants.

(via The Artful Writer)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at February 5, 2005 01:37 PM | TrackBack

I used to be a legal copyeditor, and one of the few fun things about the job was that the cases included the defendants' street A.K.A.'s. Stuff like Smurf, E.T., The Crusher, etc. Kind of reassuring, in a way, that gangsters still adopt goofy nicknames, just like in Guys and Dolls.

Posted by: Camassia at February 8, 2005 07:05 PM

What I don't get is why the gangsters don't adopt tough-guy nicknames. Isn't that supposed to be part of their street credibility?

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at February 8, 2005 07:32 PM

I don't know, but I suspect it's because people don't give nicknames to themselves, but are dubbed in the spirit of male-bonding insults. That explains names like Shorty and Fats and so on. I suppose if you go on to build a sufficiently fearsome reputation, the name is no longer a handicap.

Posted by: Camassia at February 9, 2005 06:47 PM