Outkast-Rosa Parks Conflict Enters Courtroom

Months after Rosa Parks lodged a formal complaint against hip-hop duo Outkast for the unauthorized use of her name for the title of a song from their 1998 album "Aquemini," the matter is entering the courts.

On Thursday morning, Mrs. Parks' attorneys, Gregory J. Reed and Richard Manson will appear in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Michigan in Ann Arbor in Mrs. Parks' defense. Joseph Beck will represent Outkast, their label, LaFace, and LaFace's distributor, Arista Records. Outkast were originally being represented by former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Conrad Mallett, Jr., who later withdrew from the case.

Ironically, Mr. Beck has represented the family of Martin Luther King Jr.'s estate in legal disputes, protecting Dr. King's name form unauthorized use.

Rosa Parks, the woman who helped spawn the civil rights movement by refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, first hired an attorney to negotiate

with Outkast and it's labels in March (see "Rosa Parks Upset At Outkast For Unauthorized Use Of Her Name").

A decade ago, Parks was the focus of a Neville Brothers song, "Sister Rosa," from their 1989 album, "Yellow Moon." No legal action is known to have been pursued as a result of that usage, however.

Outkast responded to Parks' complaint in March with a statement saying, "Rosa Parks has inspired our music and our lives since we were children. The opportunity to use our music to help educate young people about the heroes in the African-American community is one of the responsibilities we feel we have as music artists. It was nor ever has been our intention to defame a woman who we consider a role model and a civil rights pioneer. We hope to be able to work out this situation amicably" (see "Outkast Responds To Charges Of Exploitation Against Rosa Parks").

Parks apparently

doesn't see Outkast's use of her name as educational or flattering. A statement released Thursday morning by her attorneys states that the lawsuit "accuses the group of infringing on Mrs. Parks' Right of Publicity, in marketing her name with a song containing expletives, racial slurs and sexist language, for commercial gain, which is contrary to her beliefs, and is defaming her name and contribution to America."

Rights of Publicity guarantee that one person cannot use another person's name, image or likeness for commercial gain without that person's consent -- unless its usage is deemed to serve some overriding public benefit.