June 1, 2006

Ludacris, Kanye West win copyright case

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rappers Christopher "Ludacris" Bridges
and Kanye West were cleared on Thursday of accusations they
pilfered rythms and phrases from a song by a small New Jersey
group who had filed a copyright case in a New York court.

The little-known group I.O.F. had claimed Ludacris and
Grammy Award winner West breached copyright laws by stealing
lyrics and style from their song "Straight Like That," using it
for the pair's 2003 hit single "Stand Up."

The four members of I.O.F., standing for It's Only Family,
said they distributed copies of their song to music executives
in 2002 and 2003, only to later recognize elements of their
song in Ludacris' "Stand Up," co-produced by West.

Jeff Billingsley, manager of I.O.F., said the group was
determined to appeal. "Probably Ludacris feels good that he got
over this, but he has not gotten away," he told Reuters.

Lawyers for Ludacris and West argued during the case that
the first time they heard I.O.F.'s song was when the lawsuit
was filed, and that similar rhythms and chorus words "like
that" contained in both songs were not original to I.O.F.

The case livened up the normally sober proceedings of the
U.S. District Court in Manhattan as lawyers played rap music to
the jurors as part of their arguments.

The plaintiffs brought the case to determine if there was
liability, before any monetary damages could be claimed.

Mel Sachs, a lawyer representing I.O.F., said they planned
to appeal on the grounds that a music expert they had planned
to call as a witness was excluded by the judge as part of
sanctions against another lawyer who represented them before.

"The verdict was disappointing but understandable in the
wake of this order to preclude the plaintiffs' expert in the
case," Sachs told Reuters.