Robinhood Sinks Ice Cube’s Copyright Infringement Case

A Northern District of California judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the rapper Ice Cube against Robinhood Markets Inc. on Tuesday noting a lack of standing. In late March, Ice Cube sued the financial-services company for using his image and likeness without his permission allegedly to promote Robinhood’s “terrible” products and services.

The court recounted how in its short financial newsletter published on March 8, Robinhood used an image of Ice Cube taken from a motion picture and a paraphrase of his signature catchphrase. Ice Cube’s complaint claimed that he asked Robinhood to remove the image and caption, but the “unscrupulous and predatory conglomerate” refused, prompting the suit.

Ice Cube brought federal copyright infringement and state unfair business law claims against Robinhood. The defendant moved to dismiss on the basis that the plaintiff lacked standing and that he failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

The court addressed whether Ice Cube had standing to bring the case under federal law. It ruled that though he plausibly alleged his celebrity status and economic injury, he did not plausibly plead that the use of his identity was an endorsement.

The court explained that the photograph and caption were related to market corrections, a topic of that day’s financial newsletter. The illustration did not suggest that the plaintiff endorsed Robinhood, although the company uses other celebrity endorsers like Nas and Jay-Z, to promote its products, the court reasoned. It also noted that a newsletter is not an advertisement, and no cases bearing similar facts have conferred Article III standing before.

Ice Cube has three weeks to amend his complaint, pursuant to the court’s order.

The plaintiff is represented by Freedman & Taitelman LLP, and Robinhood by Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP.