Is that a Cajun in Your Pocket or are you just happy to sue me?
In what has to be one of the weirder lawsuits out there, Louisiana rapper Mystikal is being sued by the inventor of Cajun in Your Pocket, a key chain/toy that utters six Cajun phrases at the touch of a button, for copyright infringement. New Orleans entrepreneur Steve Winn is bringing the case against the rapper for allegedly copping phrases from the device, which voices the Cajun national motto, "Laissez les bon temps rouler" ("Let the good times roll"), and the romantic "Ooooh I love you like a pig loves corn," among other sayings.
The case alleges that Mystikal says two more of the phrases, "You gotta suck da head on dem der crawfish!" and "We gon' pass good time, yeah, cher!" verbatim in his 2000 hit "Shake Ya Ass." It's not only the words Mystikal says, but also the way in which he says them. Winn claims that Cajun in Your Pocket is a "copyrighted sound recording and arrangement of words and sayings." As such, his position is that Mystikal is infringing on his copyright and seeks songwriter credit, retroactive profits and royalties, and an estimated $1.25 million in damages.
Winn, however, is not claiming 100 percent ownership of the song; he and his lawyer Greg Eveline are awaiting a musicologist's report to determine what exact percentage they will claim. "It really stands out in the song," Eveline said. "We're not asking for the world. We just want our share. Mystikal is from [Louisiana], so it's obvious where [the phrases] came from."
Mystikal's lawyer Roy Maughan Jr. said, "Winn did not make up those expressions. They've existed in the language for over 100 years. Since he wasn't the creator of them, they aren't unique to him. He can't copyright them. We dispute his claim completely."
Eveline said that, while it is true that the basic sayings have been around for some time, none of them are exactly the same as his client's interpretations of them.
"On their own Web site, it claims those are 'authentic Cajun expressions,'" Maughan pointed out. "Well if that's the case, you didn't make them up! The expressions [haven't been modified] in such a way that gives them uniqueness or protection."
Furthermore, Maughan said, " 'Cher' is a term of endearment in the French language. It is not a protectable phrase. 'We gon' pass good time' has been said verbatim many, many, many times. To say because you put two common, non-protectable phrases together all of a sudden gives it uniqueness is ludicrous."
This isn't the first time Cajun in Your Pocket has been at the center of a musical melee. Four years ago, Ani DiFranco accented her song "Angel Food" with phrases from Cajun in Your Pocket the actual recordings, not just the sayings in her own voice. Winn avenged his product and the case was settled for around $20,000.
But it's not as simple in this case. The copyright infringement is only half the problem Winn has with "Shake Ya Ass." "This is a toy for 5-year-olds and up. It's sold 60,000 copies. And now it's associated with sex. Oral sex, anal sex. I don't know. But it doesn't help the sales," Eveline said.
"The guy who made this device sells it locally in service stations for a couple of dollars," Maughan said. "He's not the reason Mystikal sold many millions of copies of his album. You have to look at their contribution versus ours. It's less than three seconds of a four-minute song. To suggest two little expressions is what makes the success of a song is a pretty significant stretch."
The court date for the case is set for mid-September.