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Ice Cube sues “unscrupulous and predatory” Robinhood app for posting his photo on its website

By | Published on Thursday 1 April 2021

Ice Cube

Ice Cube has sued the company behind the recently newsworthy Robinhood stock-trading app. He accuses it of infringing his trademark and publicity rights by using his image and “catchphrase” on a post on its financial news service Robinhood Snacks.

The Robinhood app, of course, played a key role in the GameStop short squeeze moment earlier this year. That saw users of a Reddit group cause the share price in US gaming retailer GameStop to surge, mainly in a bid to screw over some Wall Street hedge funds which, some would argue, were in the process of screwing over GameStop. In the midst of all that, Robinhood restricted the trading of GameStop shares via its platform, leading to accusations the app company was practising “market manipulation” in order to protect the hedge funds.

But where does Ice Cube factor into all this? Well, early last month the Robinhood Snacks website and app illustrated a story with a picture of the rapper, accompanied by the caption “Correct yourself before you wreck yourself”, a play on the lyric “You better check yo self before you wreck yo self” from Ice Cube’s 1993 track ‘Check Yo Self’.

And he is not happy at all about appearing on what he argues is basically a promotional site that exists to sell the financial services offered by the wider Robinhood business.

And why wouldn’t he want to be associated with the wider Robinhood business? Because, his lawyers argue in a lawsuit filed yesterday, “Robinhood is an unscrupulous and predatory conglomerate that professes to be a financial services company for the everyday person. In truth, Robinhood is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is the archetypal example of an amoral corporation that places profits over people”. Yeah, don’t feel the need to hold back.

“Robinhood’s corporate malfeasance is no secret. Over the course of its brief existence, Robinhood has been: (a) the subject of investigations too numerous to list, but currently by not less than five separate governmental bodies; (b) fined several times by federal regulatory agencies, including most recently a $65 million settlement with the SEC in December 2020; and (c) named as a defendant in hundreds of lawsuits, including currently over 50 class action lawsuits”.

“No wonder”, they go on. “In 2020 alone, it was widely reported that Robinhood’s stock trading app – which depends on trigger-finger immediacy – went down not less than 90 separate times. Robinhood is selling a garbage trading platform to the American public and laughing all the way to the bank”.

“In a cynical effort to appeal to a young demographic, Robinhood has engaged celebrity endorsers such as Jay-Z, Nas and Jared Leto to endorse its products and services”, the lawsuit then states. “However, in an act of unmitigated gall and transparent retribution, Robinhood and its subsidiary have now used the image and likeness of Ice Cube – without his permission – to promote Robinhood’s terrible products and services. Robinhood has picked on the wrong man this time”.

“On 8 Mar 2021”, it then explains, “defendants impermissibly used Ice Cube’s image and likeness in connection with an advertisement for Robinhood’s financial services and products on the ‘Robinhood Snacks’ website and app”.

“The advertisement creates the false impression that Ice Cube supports and endorses Robinhood’s products and services. This is especially true as the advertisement (mis)quotes the most well-known lyric from Ice Cube’s hit single ‘Check Yo Self’. In truth, Ice Cube absolutely does not, and never would, support Robinhood’s products and services”.

Those are just the edited highlights of a lengthy and forthright lawsuit. But basically, Ice Cube argues that Robinhood breached his rights under US and Californian law by using his picture for the piece on the Robinhood Snacks site.

For its part, the Robinhood company insists that it properly licensed its use of the Ice Cube photo via the agency that controls the copyright in it. And that Robinhood Snacks is an editorial service, meaning the photo was used for editorial not advertising, and therefore the company did not make use of the rapper’s image for promotional purposes.

It remains to be seen if the court accepts that defence.