​Complaining Work

​Defending Work

Fredley Saurel [aka “Freddy GZ”] et al.

“Turn Down for What?”

Audio Recording

Jonathan Smith [aka Lil’ Jon”], et al.

“Turn Down for What?”

Audio Recording


Comment by Charles Cronin

This dispute devolves to the question whether the plaintiffs have any legally protected interest in “turn down for what”, which they used as the title of, and a repeated expression in, their rap number. The complaint does not expressly claim that the plaintiffs coined this expression, but ambiguously suggests that through their use of it they hoped to “brand” it. However, this is claim for copyright infringement, and should copyright protect a title of four commonplace words? In fact, if the plaintiffs’ helped to disseminate use of this phrase, beyond their song, as a colloquial equivalent of the locution “let’s party”, among rap aficionados, by doing so they lessened any potential service- or trademark claim to the expression by establishing its generic and unprotected meaning and associations.

The complaint (below) is a veritable smorgasbord of dubious and irrelevant claims. It does not directly assert that the defendants sampled the plaintiffs’ sound recording, but implies they did so by reference to information posted on a crowd-sourced website “Who Sampled”. (“Sampling” in the pop music arena refers to copying portions of another’s recorded performance and incorporating these portions into one’s own recording.) More remarkable, however, are the plaintiffs’ extravagant efforts to locate any similarities between the two songs beyond the title phrase. These purported similarities come down to an utterly unoriginal and predictable rhythmic pattern to which the four syllables “turn down for what” are chanted, and three pitches that occur in otherwise dissimilar brief descending motifs of  “instrumental hooks” of the two songs. The complaint offers flimsy “evidence” of these similarities using inapt visual musical notation which, if anything, underscores the dissimilarities of the works, and the de minimis nature of any commonalities between them.


Complaint: (PDF)