Rick Ross Rap Name Protected Under First Amendment
Hip hop’s self-proclaimed biggest bawse will not face charges for using the name Rick Ross according to a California appeals court.
In March, Rozay (né William Roberts II) and others including Jay Z, Warner Bros. Records and Universal Music dodged a $10 million suit filed by former drug kingpin “Freeway” Ricky Ross. In his initial case, the real Ross alleged the rapper had been appropriating his name and likeness since 2006 but failed to file his lawsuit until 2010. The Teflon Don rapper walked away free of charge after a judge ruled Ross’ claims to be untimely.
Last week, Judge Roger Boren ruled against Ross’ appeal, which claimed the rapper’s work with a new label should be considered as part of the same “single publication” as his earlier work.
“We recognize that Roberts’ work—his music and persona as a rap musician—relies to some extent on plaintiff’s name and persona,” wrote Judge Boren. “Roberts chose to use the name ‘Rick Ross.’ He raps about trafficking in cocaine and brags about his wealth. These were ‘raw materials’ from which Roberts’ music career was synthesized. But these are not the ‘very sum and substance’ of Roberts’ work.”
Judge Boren concluded that the Mastermind rapper’s persona is entitled to protection as expressive speech under the First Amendment.
“Roberts created a celebrity identity, using the name Rick Ross, of a cocaine kingpin turned rapper,” says the ruling. “He was not simply an imposter seeking to profit solely off the name and reputation of Rick Ross. Rather, he made music out of fictional tales of dealing drugs and other exploits—some of which related to plaintiff. Using the name and certain details of an infamous criminal’s life as basic elements, he created original artistic works.”