It appears that 50 Cent might have hit a dead-end in his 5-year lawsuit against Rick Ross over the unapproved sampling of 50’s song “In Da Club.” When Ross used the song for his 2015 Renzel Remixes project, Fif alleged trademark infringement, that his rights to publicity were violated, and sued Ross for $2 million.
50 originally released “In Da Club” in 2003 on his hit debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin’. According to court papers obtained by Billboard, he recorded the song following an agreement with his then-label, Shady Records/Aftermath Records that said, “Jackson owns no copyright interest in ‘In Da Club.’” Jackson also gave Shady/Aftermath the “perpetual and exclusive rights during the term of [the Recording Agreement],” and a non-exclusive right to forever use 50’s name and likeness “for the purposes of trade, or for advertising purposes ... in connection with the marketing and exploitation of Phonograph Records and Covered Videos.”
50 Cent lost a fight in the ongoing legal battle in 2018 when a lower court ruled in Ross’ favor. At the time, the court found that because Jackson signed away his rights to the song and his right of publicity to his labels in the recording agreement, that he couldn’t sue Ross for sampling the song. On Wednesday, the U.S. Appeals Court upheld that decision.
The appeals court decided that even though Ross didn’t ask for approval to use the song on his mixtape, and failed to include 50 Cent’s name as a featured artist, 50’s recording agreement still meant that he had “surrendered his rights to the use of his name, performance and likeness associated with the master recording of ‘In Da Club’ in connection with the advertising and marketing of ‘Phonograph Records.’”
In agreeing with the lower court’s decision, the appeals court ruled that Ross was “presumably liable for copyright infringement to Shady/Aftermath, but not” 50 Cent. The court said Fif may have the right to either urge Shady/Aftermath to sue Roberts for copyright infringement—and to seek damages from which 50 could be warranted a royalty—or seek damages from Shady/Aftermath for neglecting to protect 50’s right to royalties by suing Roberts. The court ultimately decided, though, that Fif didn’t have the right to personally sue Ross.