New York, NY – A New York Federal judge has ruled The Notorious B.I.G. — and subsequently Rita Ora — were within their legal rights to use the phrase “party and bullshit” in their music.
According to Billboard, Judge Robert Katzmann handed down the ruling on Wednesday (September 4) and determined using the words didn’t constitute copyright infringement.
Staci Jennifer Riordan, who leads Nixon Peabody’s legal team on behalf of Biggie’s estate and Ora, was pleased with Katzmann’s ruling.
“It aligns with most people’s understandings of how the law should work,” Riordan said. “No one should be able to own a phrase, especially if I am not using the phrase or words in the same way. You shouldn’t be prevented from saying ‘party and bullshit’ and phrases like it.
“[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 founding member of The Last Poets Oyewole several years ago. The iconic spoken word group was behind 1968’s “When the Revolution Comes,” which used the words “party and bullshit and party and bullshit and party and bullshit and party and bullshit and party” as a refrain.
B.I.G. dropped “Party and Bullshit” in 1993. The track contained samples of “When the Revolution Comes” and a remix of the “party and bullshit” phrase. After his 1997 shooting death, his estate licensed the phrase to Ora for her 2012 single “How We Do (Party).”
Oyewole sued both Biggie’s estate and Ora for copyright infringement for using the phrase, claiming he never received any royalties. The Biggie estate, however, argued fair use.
The lower courts ruled in Biggie’s favor last year, but the decision wasn’t affirmed by the District Court for the Southern District of New York until now.
“The whole purposes of the copyright infringement is to promote innovation and allow people to express themselves,” Riordan said. “We are happy we are able to make a contribution to clarifying the law and to promoting creativity.”