An Australian woman is hoping to dodge a lawsuit brought on by Jay-Z.
In 2017 Jessica Chiha started a company called The Little Homie, producing kids books and clothing. The company’s first product was an alphabet book titled, AB to Jay-Z, with the words, “if you’re having alphabet problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but my ABCs ain’t one,” on the back cover, a riff on the lyrics from Jay’s song, “99 Problems” from 2003’s The Black Album. The phrasing also appears in the pages of the book, printed under the letter Z, “ZZ is for Jay-Z and he has 99 problems, but his ABCs ain’t one.” A coloring book with the same title was later made available for sale.
Along with Jay-Z, the book also features the likeness of a number of hip hip stars, though it’s not clear if approvals were given by those artists. Chiha even started a Kickstarter campaign to help raise money for her business using Jay’s image.
All seems innocent enough, except Chiha never bothered to ask Jay if she could use his name or lyrics to sell her product. As would be expected, Jay sued Chiha and her company in Australian federal court for trademark infringement.
Chiha and her attorneys are offering up what can only be described as a privileged defense, saying Jay’s lawsuit is “embarrassing”, and insinuating Chiha is entitled to use his name and work to her own benefit.
The lyrics first appeared on Ice-T’s 1993 album, Home Invasion, on the track, “99 Problems” featuring Brother Marquis. A slightly altered version was used by Jay-Z, with permission — and for a fee — in his 2003 song of the same name. This is a common practice in music called sampling. However, Chiha’s lawyers are challenging Jay’s ownership of the lyrics since they appeared on Ice-T’s album first. (It’s not known where Ms. Chiha’s legal team obtained their law degrees, but there’s an obvious misunderstanding of trademark and copyright law, and the practice music sampling and releases).
Court documents filed by Jay’s attorneys in Australian note that, “Mr. Carter has suffered, and will continue to suffer, loss and damage”, and that he asked Chiha to stop selling the book in March, when it was brought to his attention, and again is July.