An Australian children’s products retailer being sued by music giant Jay-Z over intellectual property infringements has doubled down in its defence against the claims, accusing the famed rapper and billionaire of copying the work of rival rapper Ice-T in his hit single 99 Problems.
Last month Shawn Carter, who performs under the professional name Jay-Z, launched action in the Federal Court of Australia claiming online retailer The Little Homie had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and infringed on his copyright. He claimed they did this by using his image and lyrics in its products, including a book that teaches children the alphabet by referencing well-known music artists, including the rapper.
The book features Jay-Z as the letter “Z” in the book, an includes a play on the hook from his song 99 Problems: ‘If you’re having alphabet problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but my ABCs ain’t one’.
The original Jay-Z lyrics in the song about being stopped and searched by police with police dogs are: “So if you havin’ girl problems, I feel bad for you son/Got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one”.
In a defence filed to the Federal Court on Friday, The Little Homie denied it has acted in a misleading way or infringed on the use of Jay-Z’s name or lyrics.
In response to claims of the misuse of 99 Problems lyrics, the company said its book did not infringe on copyright and “further, that the title and parts of the lyrics of Mr Carter’s 99 Problems song were copied from another song also titled 99 Problems which was recorded and released in 1993 by Tracy Lauren Marrow (under the stage name Ice-T) and Mark D. Ross (under the stage name Brother Marquis)”.
The company said Mr Carter’s claim to copyright infringement was “embarrassing” given this fact.
It has long been on the public record that Jay-Z’s 99 Problems is based on the 1993 song 99 Problems, which was released by Ice-T and Brother Marquis.
The 1993 version of the song includes the hook: “So if you havin’ girl problems, I feel bad for you son./Got 99 problems and a bitch ain’t one”.
In a 2014 interview with Radio.com, Mr Marrow said Mr Carter had “paid for the publishing” to remake 99 Problems. Neither Mr Marrow nor Mr Ross have ever taken any legal action against Mr Carter around the ownership of the hook in 99 Problems.
Mr Carter owns the trademark to the name “Jay-Z” in Australia and argues that The Little Homie’s use of his name without consent infringes on his trademark.
The company rejected this, claiming it uses a disclaimer saying that use of artist’s names “do not constitute or imply the endorsement, recommendation or approval of those persons”.
Mr Carter’s US legal representatives declined to comment on Sunday.
The owner of The Little Homie, Jessica Chiha, also declined to comment.
The case is set for mediation in March 2020.
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