Atlanta Team Speaks With Billboard About Recent High-Profile IP Music Win for Rick Ross

Atlanta, Ga. (August 21, 2020) - Atlanta Partners Jonathan D. Goins and Leron E. Rogers, along with Associate John T. Rose, recently spoke with Billboard for an article titled, “50 Cent Loses Rick Ross ‘In Da Club Remix’ Appeal.” The article discusses the significant victory that Lewis Brisbois recently secured on behalf of its client, William Leonard Roberts (known professionally as Rick Ross), when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in Mr. Roberts’ favor in a high-profile IP music case brought by Curtis James Jackson III (known professionally as 50 Cent). 

This case, which has been covered extensively in the media, involved Mr. Jackson’s allegations that Mr. Roberts violated his common law right of publicity. Mr. Jackson contended that Mr. Roberts unlawfully used his name in the track title and his voice in the actual recording of Mr. Roberts' remix version of "In Da Club." As the Billboard article describes, the Second Circuit concluded that Mr. Jackson’s right of publicity claim was preempted because he failed to assert a sufficiently substantial state interest that was distinct from interests underlying federal copyright law. Thus, the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment and dismissed Mr. Jackson’s claim.

In a statement provided to Billboard, Mr. Goins and Mr. Rogers said, “Today is a victory for talented artists, as well as those seeking to license the use of music. The Second Circuit's opinion reaffirms the creativity of artists to freely express their performances in sampling or remixing of popular songs, while at the same time, still guaranteeing that those who seek to license such songs (from a publisher or copyright holder) may do so without necessarily having to separately obtain or contractually negotiate one's right of publicity. Furthermore, Mr. Roberts' remix of 'In Da Club' was never about Mr. Jackson -- but was simply one of many remixes on his mixtape album, which also featured songs by Adele, Nas, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and Lil Wayne. Artists often perform lyrics in sampling or remixing songs of other artists, as it has long been a staple of hip-hop music.”

In addition, Mr. Rose told Billboard that Mr. Roberts was pleased to be able to move on from this litigation, which lasted five years. “This is a matter that's been drawn out for quite some time and he's excited to once again finally get it behind him," Mr. Rose said.

In connection with this victory, Law360 named Lewis Brisbois a “Legal Lion” in its Weekly Verdict: Legal Lions & Lambs feature, and also covered the Second Circuit ruling in an article titled, “2nd Circ. Backs Rick Ross In 50 Cent's Publicity Rights Fight.” The article described the court’s 66-page decision and included Mr. Goins’ reaction to the win, quoting him as saying, “Appellant's argument, if adopted, would have created chaos for the entire entertainment industry, especially regarding the music clearance process." 

Read the full Billboard article here. Additional coverage of this matter can be found in Digital Music NewsHip-Hop LatelyNewsOpenerBloomberg LawReuters, and Westlaw Today. (subscription may be required). You may read the full Second Circuit opinion here.

Mr. Goins is vice-chair of Lewis Brisbois’ Intellectual Property & Technology Practice. With over 17 years of experience, Mr. Goins serves as lead counsel in litigating federal cases nationwide for a wide range of clients, (from Fortune 500 companies to profitable start-ups), involving trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, right of publicity, breach of contractual technology disputes, and related business torts.

The Atlanta team was assisted during the appeal process by New York Appellate Practice Partner Nicholas P. Hurzeler, who provided detailed knowledge of Second Circuit and local New York rules and regulations.

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