Rosa Parks update

92-year-old Rosa Parks “has dementia and is only faintly aware of what is happening around her,” but that didn’t stop lawyers from filing a $5 billion lawsuit on her behalf against the music companies that permitted the music group OutKast to release a song with the title “Rosa Parks.” (Jan. 17). The case has settled with the promise of a CD and a television tribute to her, featuring her guardian, Dennis Archer, as host. No conflicts of interest there. I couldn’t find any press coverage indicating how much Parks’s current lawyer, Willie Gary (Oct. 14, Aug. 13, 2003, earlier links), was paid in the process; Archer refused to discuss financial terms. (Peter Slevin, “Settlement Commits Music Producers to Honor Rosa Parks”, Washington Post, Apr. 15). The Sixth Circuit held that the rappers did not have a first amendment right to name their song “Rosa Parks” because they could have called it “Back of the Bus” rather than use an allusive title. One looks forward to more federal court diktats over song titles. (Parks v. LaFace Records (6th Cir. 2003) (argued by the late Johnnie Cochran)). (And welcome Slate readers: check out the main page.)

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