Court OKs Rosa Parks' lawsuit against OutKast. The Supreme Court allows the civil rights icon to reinstate her suit over the duo's hit song ''Rosa Parks''

By Gary Susman
December 06, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
OutKast: Kevin Winter/Getty Images/NewsCom

Rosa Parks is 90, but she’s not done fighting for her rights. The civil rights icon, best known for launching the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat for a white man, is proceeding with a lawsuit against OutKast for using her name as the title of the duo’s 1998 hit song. OutKast had appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but on Monday, the court declined to review the case, meaning that Parks can go ahead and sue the rappers.

Parks first sued the hip-hoppers and their labels (LaFace Records, Arista Records, and BMG) over the Grammy-nominated song in 1999, arguing that the song constituted false advertising, infringed on her right to publicity, defamed her character, and interfered with a business relationship. She had recently allowed the release of a tribute album with her own name on it, a gospel record called ”A Tribute to Mrs. Rosa Parks.” She argued that her name in the OutKast song’s title implied an endorsement, tarnished her name with the song’s sometimes profane lyrics, and implied that the song was about her, which it wasn’t. (The lyrics don’t mention Parks or the civil rights movement at all, but the chorus urges rival MCs to ”move to the back of the bus.”).

A federal court threw out the suit on First Amendment grounds, but this year, a U.S. Court of Appeals reversed that decision and reinstated part of the lawsuit. The Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene puts the ball back in a lower federal court, where Parks may continue her litigation. She has said she wants all references to her removed on future pressings of ”Aquemini,” the record on which the song appeared.