In Da Courts: Second Circuit Affirms Lower Court Ruling in Rick Ross vs. 50 Cent Copyright FeudAugust 24, 2020

Earlier this week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a ruling settling an ongoing dispute between rappers Rick Ross and 50 Cent.

In 2015, 50 Cent sued Rick Ross over the unauthorized use of 50 Cent’s hit song “In Da Club” in a promo video. Due in part to the copyright in this song being owned by 50 Cent’s record label, the lawsuit was premised on a state law right-to-publicity claim. However, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut ruled that this claim was preempted by the federal Copyright Act.

On appeal, the Second Circuit considered whether the state right-to-publicity statute furthered “substantial” state interests distinct from those served by the federal copyright law. The court ultimately determined that enforcement of 50 Cent’s right of publicity would substantially impair the copyright owner’s rights under federal copyright law without substantially advancing a state interest. The court explained that “the predominant focus” of 50 Cent’s claim was Rick Ross’ unauthorized use of a copyrighted sound recording that 50 Cent had “no legal right to control.” Because 50 Cent’s claim was “virtually indistinguishable” from a copyright claim, it was deemed preempted.

This holding is notable in that it prevents an artist from exercising their right to publicity in a manner that conflicts with the exclusive rights of a copyright holder—often the artist’s record label—to exercise such controls.

A copy of the Second Circuit’s opinion can be found here.

Nicholas J. Krob is an Associate Attorney in the TrademarkLicensing, and Litigation Practice Groups at McKee, Voorhees & Sease. For additional information, please visit or contact Nicholas directly via email at

← Return to Filewrapper

Stay in Touch

Receive the latest news and updates from us and our attorneys.

Sign Up