Rapper Rick Ross is suing LMFAO over two words that sort of rhyme

Rick Ross, seen here in a 2014 file photo, is asking a Miami court to revive his LMFAO copyright fight concerning his song “Hustlin’” and the duo’s “Party Rock Anthem.”
Rick Ross, seen here in a 2014 file photo, is asking a Miami court to revive his LMFAO copyright fight concerning his song “Hustlin’” and the duo’s “Party Rock Anthem.” Invision/AP

Miami rapper Rick Ross is itching for another courtroom rumble with Los Angeles duo LMFAO.

On Wednesday, Ross appealed a 2016 ruling that dismissed his long-running suit over what he says are similarities between his song, “Hustlin’” and LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.”

He asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Miami to revive his claims that LMFAO ripped off his song, arguing this time that his copyright registration is valid despite errors since there was no intentional fraud or concealment in the song’s registration process, according to a report released Thursday by the legal site, Law 360.

The Florida court ruled in April 2016 that Ross’ registrations for the song had enough errors that they were invalid. Without a valid registration with the U.S. Copyright Office, a lawsuit can not be filed in federal court.

Ross was already rebuked by a federal judge in Miami in September 2105 when he tried to sue LMFAO for using a phrase from his song.

Ross claimed that LMFAO’s Redfoo (Stefan Gordy, youngest son of Motown founder Berry Gordy) and his nephew Sky Blu (Skyler Gordy) violated his copyright for his 2006 song “Hustlin’.” The duo used the phrase, “everyday I’m shufflin’” in the 2011 hit, “Party Rock Anthem,” and on merchandise like T-shirts.

Ross’ song had the phrase, “Everyday I’m hustlin’.”

Judge Kathleen Williams wasn’t buying into Ross’ argument. In her September 2015 ruling, Williams, citing numerous cases, noted that short phrases or common or ordinary words like those in these songs are not copyrightable.

The courts have found that oft-used phrases in popular music like “fire in the hole,” “so high,” “get it poppin’” and many others were simple, short, common phrases not subject to copyright protection.

LMFAO’s Sky Blu and Redfoo in a 2011 file photo at the time of their hit, ‘Party Rock Anthem.’ Miami Herald File

“Even if the phrase ‘everyday I’m hustlin’’ were copyrightable, plaintiffs still fail the intrinsic test,” she wrote in her ruling. “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 recognize the merchandise as having been appropriated from ‘Hustlin’’ 

Ross was hardly the first to use the words “hustlin’” in a song.

No less than the late Beatle John Lennon wrote “everybody’s hustlin’ for a buck and a dime” in 1973 for his composition, “Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out).” Lennon’s sad, late night saloon tune, written with Frank Sinatra in mind in a period when Lennon was separated from his wife, Yoko Ono, was released on his “Walls and Bridges” album in 1974 — two years before Ross (William Leonard Roberts II) was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

The lyrics in Ross’ song are almost exclusively repeated passages of “everyday I’m hustlin’/hustle, hustle, hustlin’.”

Miami rapper Rick Ross recalls being named to the All-Dade football team while playing football for Carol City Senior High School. Ross celebrated the 10th anniversary of his 'Port of Miami' album on August 30, 2016.

According to Law 360, Ross’ attorney Karen Stetson of the GrayRobinson firm in Miami told the Eleventh Circuit in Miami that the rapper’s copyright registration for ‘Hustlin’’ is valid. Greenberg Traurig’s Elliot Scherker, who represents the Gordys of LMFAO, said that the three separate registrations for Ross’ song are all different with regard to the date of creation and that none of the registrations would have been granted.

“Party Rock Anthem” went to No. 1 in numerous territories, including the U.S., Canada, Australia and Brazil, in 2011. “Hustlin’” — which has a songwriting credit for Ross and Orlando production duo Andrew Harr and Jermaine Jackson — was the first single from Ross’ debut album, “Port of Miami,” in 2006. The song reached No. 56 on the Billboard Hot 100. The rapper, who grew up in Carol City, celebrated the 10th anniversary of the album with a party at Jungle Island in 2016.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen