The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a petition by Outkast and their record labels asking the court to intervene in a lawsuit involving civil-rights icon Rosa Parks and the rap duo’s Grammy-nominated single bearing her name. The move clears the way for Parks to sue Outkast for what she claims is false advertising.
Rosa Parks, of course, galvanized the civil-rights movement and changed the course of American history when she refused to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back of a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955.
Outkast recorded the song “Rosa Parks” for their 1998 album, Aquemini. The song does not mention Parks by name and is not about her in content. It does feature the refrain, “Ah, huh, hush that fuss/ Everybody move to the back of the bus.”
Still, Parks, 90, filed a lawsuit in 1999 saying the song used her name and likeness without her permission as false advertising. She also contended that the song both defamed her character and interfered with a previous business relationship, though those claims were later thrown out by a federal judge and upheld by an appeals court (see “Judge Rules In Outkast/Rosa Parks Lawsuit ).
Outkast petitioned the Supreme Court to dismiss the rest of the lawsuit, arguing that the song was not false advertising and didn’t violate her publicity rights as a historical figure. In denying the petition on Monday, filed on behalf of Outkast, LaFace Records and Arista Records, Parks can now continue with her lawsuit in front of a lower federal court judge. She has previously said that she wants all future references to her by the group removed from songs, albums and videos.
An attorney for Parks was not available for comment. Outkast, through their spokesperson, offered no comment.