Riordan added that the ruling “gives clarity to future musicians and entertainers on what they can put out in their recordings, music, movies, YouTube or in their content.”
The lawsuit was filed by Oyewole, a founding member of a The Last Poets, an iconic spoken-word group credited with pioneering rap, which created the song “When the Revolution Comes” in 1968 that used the words “party and bullshit and party and bullshit and party and bullshit and party and bullshit and party” as a refrain.
“When the revolution comes Afros gone be trying to straighten their heads and straightened heads gone be tryin to wear Afros. When the revolution comes. When the revolution comes. When the revolution comes. But until then you know and I know n----s will party and bullshit and party and bullshit and party and bullshit and party and bullshit and party... Some might even die before the revolution comes.”
In 1993, rapper Christopher Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G., created a song called “Party and Bullshit” by sampling “When the Revolution Comes” and remixing the “party and bullshit” phrase. After he died, his estate licensed the phrase to Rita Ora for her single “How We Do (Party),” released in 2012. Oyewole sued both B.I.G.’s estate, Rita Ora for copyright infringement for using the phrase claiming also that he never received any royalties.
While Oyewole argued that the phrase was a protectable expression, the B.I.G. estate argued fair use. In 2018, the lower courts ruled in B.I.G.’s favor, but it wasn’t until this month that decision was just affirmed by the District Court for the Southern District of New York. Riordan said the decision will provide some clarity to musicians concerned about using words that are out there as long as they are used in a different way. Attorney for Oyewole did not respond to a request for comment.
“The whole purposes of the copyright infringement is to promote innovation and allow people to express themselves ," said Riordan. Strict interpretation of copy right law says Riordan “inhibits creation and it inhibits the ability of people to be able to build on the work that is out there. We are happy we are able to make a contribution to clarifying the law and to promoting creativity.”