Parks v. LaFace Records

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Rosa Parks v. LaFace Records, et al. was a lawsuit filed by Parks' attorney Gregory J Reed in March 1999 on Rosa Parks' behalf against American hip-hop duo Outkast and LaFace Records, claiming that the group had illegally used Rosa Parks' name without her permission for the song "Rosa Parks", the most successful radio single of Outkast's 1998 album Aquemini. The song's chorus, which Parks' legal defense felt was disrespectful to Parks, is as follows: "Ah ha, hush that fuss / Everybody move to the back of the bus / Do you want to bump and slump with us / We the type of people make the club get crunk."[1]

The case was dismissed in November 1999 by U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Hackett. In August 2000, Parks' attorney Reed hired attorney Johnnie Cochran to help her appeal the district court's decision. Cochran argued that the song did not have First Amendment protection because, although its title carried Parks' name, its lyrics were not about her. However, U.S. District Judge Barbara Hackett upheld Outkast's right to use Parks' name in November 1999, and Parks took the case to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where some charges were remanded for further trial.

Parks' attorneys Reed, refiled in August 2004, and named BMG, Arista Records and LaFace Records as the defendants, asking for $5 million in damages. (Also named as defendants were several parties not directly connected to the songs, including Barnes & Noble and Borders Group for selling the songs, and Gregory Dark and Braddon Mendelson, the director and producer, respectively, of the 1998 music video. The judge dismissed the music video producers from the case by the reason of "fraudulent joinder," as these defendants had no connection to the case and there was no justifiable reason for the plaintiff's attorneys to add them to the lawsuit.)

In October 2004, U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh appointed Dennis Archer, a former mayor of Detroit and Michigan Supreme Court justice, as guardian of legal matters for Parks after her family expressed concerns that her caretakers and her lawyer were pursuing the case based on their own financial interests.[2] "My auntie would never, ever go to this length to hurt some young artists trying to make it in the world," Parks' niece Rhea McCauley said in an Associated Press interview. "As a family, our fear is that during her last days Auntie Rosa will be surrounded by strangers trying to make money off of her name."[3]

The lawsuit was settled April 15, 2005. In the settlement agreement, Outkast and their producer and recorded labels paid Parks an undisclosed cash settlement and agreed to work with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in creating educational programs about the life of Rosa Parks. The record labels and Outkast admitted to no wrongdoing. It is not known whether Parks' legal fees were paid for from her settlement money or by the record companies.[4]


  1. ^ Wallinger, Hanna (2006). Transitions: Race, Culture, and the Dynamics of Change. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster. p. 126. ISBN 3-8258-9531-9. 
  2. ^ "'I understand I am a symbol, but I have never gotten used to being a public person'", Associated Press State & Local Wire, December 4, 2004
  3. ^ "Medical records show Rosa Parks had dementia as early as 2002", Associated Press State & Local Wire, January 13, 2005
  4. ^ David Shepardson and Joe Menard, "Parks settles Outkast lawsuit's", Detroit News, April 15, 2005. Accessed online July 4, 2008.

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