Rapper Rick Ross cannot copyright the words “Everyday I’m hustlin’,” a U.S. judge has ruled, putting an end to his claim against music group LMFAO for selling T-shirts with the similar catch-phrase “Everyday I’m shufflin’.” Ross sued LMFAO in 2013 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”.
In her ruling in the Miami federal court, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams said Ross’s slogan, a prominent part of his 2006 debut hit “Hustlin’,” is a short expression that courts have repeatedly said cannot be copyrighted.
Ross, whose real name is William Leonard Roberts II, has alleged the Los Angeles-based electropop duo, made up of Stefan Gordy and Skyler Gordy, copied “Hustlin'” into”Party Rock Anthem” – which contains the lyric “Everyday I’m Shufflin’.”
The hip hop star said LMFAO’s song was “an obvious attempt to capitalize on the fame and success of Hustlin’.” He also sued Kia Motors for using “Party Rock Anthem” in an advertising campaign.
In the complaint, Ross claimed LMFAO also violated his copyright by selling T-shirts and other merchandise bearing the Shufflin’ slogan.
In her order Judge Williams said that “Hustlin’,” as a song, is protected by copyright. But Ross’ three-word slogan, is made up of ordinary words and cannot be copyrighted. Judge Williams compared it to other music catch-phrases from the past, such as “you got the right one, uh-huh,” “holla back,” and “we get it poppin’,” saying it is a “short expression of the sort that courts have uniformly held uncopyrightable.” saying:
“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
“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'”.
The judge did not rule on whether LMFAO’s song itself was an unauthorized copy of “Hustlin’.” A trial is scheduled for October.
William L. Roberts, II et al. v. Stefan Kendal Gordy et al, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, No. 13-cv-24700.