Rick Ross can continue to hustle every day but he can’t sue others who use his signature phrase, according to a federal judge’s Friday ruling. Ross sued uncle-nephew duo LMFAO in 2013, claiming “Party Rock Anthem” infringed on his copyright in “Hustlin'” by use of its lyric “everyday I’m shufflin.'”
In her opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen M. Williams says the two years of litigation in this case ended where it should have begun — by asking “was the musical compositionHustlin’ validly registered with the Copyright Office, and, if so, do Plaintiffs have an ownership interest in the exclusive right to prepare derivative works for the musical composition Hustlin’?”
Williams’ answer to both questions is “no.”
“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,” she writes.
This decision doesn’t come as a surprise, considering she previously found the three-word phrase not original enough to be copyrightable for use on merchandise.
In March Ross was dealt another blow when the U.S. Copyright Office issued a statement that a copyright for “Everyday I’m hustlin'” never should have been issued.
“For reasons that have never been made clear, the musical composition Hustlin’ is the subject of three different registrations with the Copyright Office,” Williams writes. “It should be noted that the second and third registrations were filed by major, global music corporations. Even the most minimal due diligence, through a basic search of the Register’s records (which are easily accessible online), would have revealed these prior registrations.”
Williams says there is undisputed evidence that Ross, and his producers who are also plaintiffs, knew there were competing registrations with inaccuracies and took no steps to fix them.
“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,” Williams writes. “However, 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.”