BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  Entertainment: Music
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Sunday, 6 May, 2001, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Hip-hop group go back to court
Rosa Parks being arrested in 1955
Parks, now 88, says the song could taint her legacy
American civil rights icon Rosa Parks is appealing against a ruling that saw hip-hop act OutKast cleared of illegally using her name.

The Atlanta-based band's song Rosa Parks did not violate her right to publicity, A Detroit juge ruled in 1999.

The appeal will be heard by a federal appeals court in Cincinnati on 11 May.

A reversal of the decision below would produce a chaotic situation

Joseph Beck
OutKast lawyer
Ms Parks, 88, is credited with launching the civil rights movement after refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Alabama in 1955.

OutKast's song was nominated for a Grammy award in 1999 and includes the lyrics: "Hush that fuss, everybody move to the back of the bus."

Ms Parks accuses the band of defaming her by implying she approved of it.

She also said the album's ''profanity, racial slurs and derogatory language directed at women'' handicapped her future business dealings, caused emotional distress and tainted her legacy.

But US District Court Judge Barbara Hackett rejected those claims during the original case.

OutKast's Aquemini CD
OutKast's Aquemini has sold 2.5 million copies
She said: ''The right of publicity... does not authorise a celebrity to prevent the use of her name in an expressive work protected by the First Amendment.''

The defamation claim failed, she found, because the song's references to her were metaphorical rather than factual.

Ms Parks is being represented by Johnnie Cochran, who represented OJ Simpson and Puff Daddy in their criminal trials.

Cochrane says the band, its label LaFace Records and its corporate parent BMG Entertainment violated Ms Parks's common law right of publicity.

OutKast are being represented by Joseph Beck, who is also involved in the copyright case pitting literary parody The Wind Done Gone against Gone With The Wind author Margaret Mitchell's estate.


''I think a reversal of the decision below would produce a chaotic situation,'' Beck told

''The First Amendment guarantees an artist... the right to use celebrity names as part of their act or writing or song so long as they don't do so in a defamatory way.

He warned of a "flood" of similar lawsuits if the ruling was overturned.

The songs is taken from the band's 1998 Aquemini album, which has sold 2.5 million copies.

Ms Parks's 1955 arrest for failing to give up her seat triggered a 381-day bus boycott that first brought the Rev Martin Luther King Jr to national attention.

See also:

21 Apr 01 | Americas
Blow for 'Wind' parody
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Music stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Music stories