Future Gets Copyright Infringement Case Tossed by Judge, Who Cites Ye, Biggie, and Wu-Tang in Decision
A Chicago federal court ruled that Future did not infringe on another rapper’s copyright with his song “When I Think About It.”
The verdict, delivered by U.S. District Judge Martha Pacold, marked a big win for Future, legally named Nayvadius Wilburn, over the copyright lawsuit filed by rapper Gutta, also known as DaQuan Robinson.
Judge Pacold’s Aug. 25 ruling stated that while both songs shared similar title phrases and themes, the musical compositions were not close enough to allow Gutta’s “When U Think About It” to establish copyright infringement. Pacold also noted that the title phrases “when you think about it” or “when I think about it” lacked uniqueness for copyright protection, likening them to fragments of everyday speech prevalent in popular music.
The judge also cited examples that themes of guns, money, and jewelry were common tropes in rap music before citing examples from the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Machine Gun Funk,” Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.” and Kanye West’s “Diamonds from Sierra Leone.”
Those weren’t the only musical references Pacold made. She pointed to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and their 1970 hit “Our House” to reject Gutta’s idea of a copyright-protected “core lyric.” “The core lyric, ‘our house is a very, very, very fine house,’ is used to support the entire rest of the song, which uses the house and its constituent elements as the setting for the narrator’s relationship,” said Pacold. “This songwriting technique is not unique to Robinson, nor mid-century Canadian-American bands that feature intricate vocal harmonies. The mere use of a ‘core lyric’ to support a song’s storyline is not protectable element because it is a frequently utilized technique in popular songwriting.”
The legal dispute began in 2021 when Gutta sued Future, alleging the latter had copied his song “When U Think About It.” The Virginia rapper claimed to have sent over the track in 2017 to rapper Doe Boy and producer Zaytoven, who were associated with Future’s label. Neither Doe Boy nor Zaytoven, legally known as Isam Mostafa and Xavier Lamar Dotson respectively, were named as defendants in the lawsuit. “When I Think About It” was released on Future’s 2018 mixtape with Zaytoven, Beastmode 2.