​Complaining Work

​Defending Work

 Randy Jefferson

 “Still Tippin’”

 Michael Jones, et al.

“Still Tippin'”

Hear Sound Recording

Comment by Shar Attaran

This case involves two versions of the same song, Still Tippin’, which was ultimately released on the album, “Who is Mike Jones?in 2004.  “Song I” was the product of a collaboration between producer Randy Jefferson, and the Houston based independent rap label, Swishahouse (Swisha) in 2002. The opposing parties in this dispute had established joint authorship of all title and interest, including copyright in the masters, album, and packaging. Jefferson wrote and produced the musical composition and organized the hook and structure of the track, while the defendants wrote and performed lyrics for the song.

“Song II,” the version of the song released to the public, was a “chopped and screwed” version of “Song I. Prior to release of the album, Swisha terminated its agreement with Jefferson, and Jefferson assigned his interest in “Song I” to Bradley Tilford. A year later, Swisha made and released “Song II,” without credit to the Plaintiff, which prompted Tilford’s filing of the complaint in this action.

When music is “chopped and screwed,” the producer slows the tempo of the song to 70 beats per minute and uses various techniques such as skipping beats and record scratching to create a “chopped-up” version of the song. “Chopped and screwed” music is attributed to the late DJ Screw and was later popularized by DJ Michael “5000” Watts, founder of Swishahouse. This genre of music is synonymous with Houston rap.

“Chopped and screwed” music rose in popularity in conjunction with increased recreational use of the drug “lean” (codeine) which notably slows the users’ perceptions of their surroundings, the effects of which the music is designed to imitate. “Song II” in this case, had mixed in new background music, replacing certain aspects of the original song, and slowed the tempo, effectively creating a “chopped-up” version of the original track.

The Southern District of Texas Court in this case relied on the Copyright Act’s derivative work exception, noting that there were no claims that Jefferson collaborated on the new version of the song, and therefore his prior interest in the original track was insufficient to make him a co-owner of “Song II.” Since he was not a joint author under §101 of the Act, he was therefore not a co-owner of the copyright under §201(a). The claim was ultimately dismissed.

Complaint: PDF

Opinion (September 11, 2006): PDF