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Ludacris, West deny infringing song by I.O.F.

Ludacris and rapper Kanye West are on trial accused of copyright infringement for allegedly stealing the essence of another song by a New Jersey group called I.O.F.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Kanye West gave a lesson in hip-hop to federal judge Thursday as he testified at a copyright infringement trial that a 2003 tune he worked on was nothing like a not-so-successful New Jersey group’s song.

During West’s testimony, U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel asked him to say the first two lines of “Stand Up.” West created the beat and opening two lines of the song, and Ludacris finished it.

West hesitated but finally blurted out a line laced with a harsh profanity that struck the judge as out of place in the dignified Manhattan courtroom.

“I’m sorry I asked,” the blushing judge said with a chuckle as nearly everyone in the courtroom, including the jurors, laughed out loud. “I think I’m going to withdraw my question.”

West, who has won six Grammy Awards for his two multiplatinum albums, “The College Dropout” and “Late Registration,” told the court that it was not unusual that “Stand Up” and “Straight Like That” by the East Orange, N.J., group I.O.F. would both repeatedly use the words “like that.”

“There’s a lot of rap songs that say, ‘like that,’ ‘yo, what’s up?’ or ‘throw your hands high,”’ he said. “Whatever people say in the ’hood, it ends up on records. That’s what hip-hop does.”

Earlier in the day, Ludacris, whose real name is Chris Bridges, testified that he had never heard the expression “straight like that” or the song by that title until he was sued. He said he had used “like that” in a 1999 song.

“I never heard anyone use the term,” Ludacris told lawyer Mel Sachs.

Sachs said the words “like that” were repeated more than 80 times in each song. Ludacris testified that he believes the words are repeated fewer than 80 times in his song.

Ludacris has been praised for his music and his acting roles as Anthony in the Oscar-winning “Crash” and as Skinny Black in “Hustle and Flow.”

A lawyer for the rappers and EMI April Music Inc., Christine Lepera, has asked the jury to reject the claims of BMS Entertainment/Heat Music LLC. The trial is to determine liability. If liability is found, a second phase of the trial will assess damages.

“Straight Like That” never made it beyond some air time on college radio after copies of it were released in September 2001. “Stand Up” was released in the fall of 2003 on Ludacris’ album “Chicken and Beer,” and became a huge hit.