Tuesday, September 27, 2011

50 Cent Not Guilty of Copyright Infringement

Although both works shared a Newark, NJ setting and some phrases, a federal court judge determined that 50 Cent did not plagiarize author Shadrach Winstead's book, The Preacher’s Son – But the Streets Have Turned Me Into a Gangster in the rapper's 2009 movie and album, Before I Self Destruct ("Judge Dismisses Copyright Case Against 50 Cent," Rolling Stone, 23 September 2011). In a related case, 50 Cent decided to revise the title of his new movie to avoid litigation from Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe who wrote a 1958 novel with a similar title. Interestingly, Achebe refused a significant offer to allow the rapper to use the same title as his novel, Things Fall Apart.

Discussion Questions:
  1. The U.S. Copyright Office notes that you cannot copyright titles of works, but some may fall under trademark law. Do you think that the Nigerian author of novel, Things Fall Apart could argue that if the rapper used the same title for his movie, people would be confused and not buy the author's book? Why or why not?
  2. Are you surprised that 50 Cent decided to change the name of his movie even though the author refused the sizable settlement to allow the rapper to use the same title? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think famous performers usually win lawsuits on plagiarism against lesser-known authors? Why or why not?