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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Rapper Gets Fees for Frivolous Lawsuit

SEATTLE (CN) - A federal judge Tuesday ordered a former writing partner of rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot to pay attorney fees for filing a "frivolous" lawsuit seeking royalties.

David Ford filed a copyright complaint in March against Sir Mix-a-Lot (Anthony Ray), seeking a share of revenue from hit songs including "Baby Got Back."

All of Ford's claims were dismissed in September .

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik called Ford's lawsuit "frivolous."

"Plaintiff's claim is frivolous or, at the very least, motivated by an unfair desire to cash in on the efforts of another. Whatever his contributions to the sixteen joint works, plaintiff remained silent for two decades, never asserting that he was an author until a lucrative license was obtained by defendant," Lasik wrote in a Sept. 11 order dismissing the case.

On Tuesday, Lasnik awarded reduced fees.

Ray sought $58,400 in fees for 157 hours of work by his attorneys at Garvey Schubert Barer. Lasnik reduced that amount to $40,900, then settled on $20,000 based on Ford's ability to pay.

Ford claimed he makes around $2,000 a month and has no savings, so a large award would cause "severe financial hardship," Lasnik wrote.

"Although the information plaintiff provided lacks the details of a balance sheet, it is enough to show that the award being considered by the Court would not only deter plaintiff from future attempts to claim copyrights but would also cause severe hardship, if not ruin."

Deterrence, rather than compensation, was the goal of the award, the judge said, adding that $20,000 - about 10 months of Ford's take-home pay - was appropriate.

Sir Mix-a-Lot's attorney Judith Endejan, of Garvey Schubert Barer, said Ford was attempting to "make a quick buck" from singer Nicki Minaj's recent use of a sample from "Baby Got Back" in her hit "Anaconda."

"Unfortunately Judge Lasnik cut Mr. Ford a break because of his alleged poor financial condition in not ordering the full amount of fees. However, Mr. Ford will now be exposed to the possibility of having to pay attorney's fees for filing a meritless appeal," Endejan said. Ford was represented by John Whitaker, who told Courthouse News, "While Mr. Ford is generally dissatisfied with the court's ruling, he is pleased that the ruling has apparently paved the way for him to vindicate his rights directly against third parties who are infringing his own separate work."

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