NEW YORK – A judge has dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit accusing rapper 50 Cent of stealing the opening line for his 2003 hit "In Da Club" from a song by former 2 Live Crew frontman Luther Campbell.
U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck found Friday that the disputed phrase was a "common, unoriginal, and noncopyrightable element of the song" and was not entitled to copyright protection.
Moreover, outside of the opening phrase, there are almost no similarities between the works, and the phrase in question represents only eleven seconds of a more than three-minute song, the judge wrote. No reasonable jury would conclude that the compositions have substantial similarities and the average person would not confuse the two songs, the judge wrote.
The original lawsuit was filed in Miami federal court in January on behalf of Lil' Joe Wein Music against Curtis James Jackson, aka 50 Cent.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Richard C. Wolfe, said 50 Cent only changed one word from the opening line of Campbell's song from "It's Your Birthday." After repeating the word "go" several times, "Sheila" becomes "shorty" in the line, "Go shorty, it's your birthday."
Campbell's song appeared on his 1994 solo album "Still a Freak for Life."
50 Cent's publicist, Yvette Gayle, said she had no comment Friday. A message left after hours at Richard Wolfe's office was not immediately returned. A telephone message left at a listing with a similar name to Lil' Joe Wein Music was also not immediately returned.
Lil' Joe Wein Music holds the copyright to "It's Your Birthday" and other songs Campbell produced with his rap group 2 Live Crew and as a solo artist.