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Tuesday, 9 December 2003


According to FindLaw, the US Supreme Court has decided to allow the claim of the civil rights activist Rosa Parks to go ahead against the rap group OutKast. Ms Parks famously refused to give up her seat and move to the back on the bus in 1955 in Alabama. Her subsequent arrest led to demonstrations followed by the end of segregation on public transportation in the South. OutKast released a track called “Rosa Parks” which, although unconnected in subject matter with Ms Parks contains the line “Ah, ha, hush that fuss. Everybody move to the back of the bus”. Parks, who had previously endorsed a gospel album in her honour, sued for false advertising, infringement of her right to publicity, defamation and interference with a business relationship. All Parks’ claims were rejected at first instance, but the Court of Appeals allowed her false advertising and publicity rights cases. OutKast appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the use of trade mark rights and publicity rights conflicted with its constitutional right to free speech but the Supreme Court rejected OutKast’s case, and the case will continue in the lower courts.

The IPKat thinks that it sound a little odd to be talking about false advertising and publicity rights when the real problem seems to be that OutKast are taking advantage of Mrs Park’s name and reputation for no particularly good reason. Presumably this isn’t a use that she would license so she’s not losing out in that way, though the IPKat notes that in this case Parks had previously been involved with (a rather different) record.

All aboard here, here, here, here, here and here

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