California Intellectual Property Blog


Rapper Rick Ross’ Revives Copyright Lawsuit Against LMFAO

Los Angeles – Last week Miami rapper Rick Ross appealed a 2016 ruling that dismissed his copyright lawsuit about alleged similarities between his song “Hustlin” and Los Angeles duo LMFAO’s song “Party Rock Anthem.” LMFAO is made up of Redfoo (Stefan Gordy) the youngest son of Motown founder Berry Gordy, and Sky Blu (Skyler Gordy) who is Stefan’s nephew.

In April 2016, the Florida court ruled that Rick Ross’ copyright registrations for the song had several errors making them invalid. Without valid registration with the U.S. Copyright Office, a copyright lawsuit cannot be filed in federal court. Back in 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen M. Williams stated that, “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.”

Ross has now asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Miami to revive his claims that LMFAO ripped off his song with their lyrics, “everyday I’m shufflin’”. Ross’s argument to the Court of Appeals is that his copyright registrations are valid despite errors since there was no intentional fraud or cover-up in the song’s registration process.

Judge Kathleen Williams cited several cases that noted short phrases are not copyrightable in holding that the three-word phrase “everyday I’m hustlin’” from Ross’ 2006 song “Hustlin’” are not sufficient for copyright protection. There have been other lyrics that the courts have found not subject to copyright protection, such as “fire in the hole,” “so high,” “get it poppin’” and many other simple, short phrases.

Judge Williams states that even if the phrase was copyrightable the plaintiffs fail the intrinsic test. The average person would not confuse “everyday I’m shufflin’” with the musical composition of “Hustlin.’” without reference to either song “Party Rock Anthem” and “Hustlin’”. So, the average person would not recognize the “everyday I’m shufflin’” phrase as being adopted from ‘Hustlin.’ when used in relation to merchandise as was done here.

Ross’ copyright attorney has argued to the 11th Circuit in Miami that the rapper’s copyright registrations for ‘Hustlin’’ are valid. However, counsel for LMFAO presented evidence that that the three separate registrations for Ross’ song are all different with respect to the date of creation and that none of the registrations should have been granted.


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