Gonahangya a staunch conservative, held a small press conference in Compton, Ca yesterday to announce that his company AMO Inc had recently trademarked and brought the rights to the word/phrase ‘Hip Hop‘. As a result they will soon start charging a licensing fee for anyone who wishes to use the word in a commercial/ for profit project.
Taking advantage of a provision in the recently amended Millennium Copyright Act of 2001, Gonahangya explained that he and his company have all the legal ammunition and clearance to own the rights to the phrase ‘Hip Hop’. He noted that the Hip Hop industry has generated over 20 billion dollars last year in the United States alone. The phrase Hip Hop is now a powerful marketing tool and his company is posed to profit handsomely in 2003 from its ‘proper’ usage. The new licensing fee is estimated to net AMO Inc a whooping 5-8 billion dollars a year.
“Any business including record labels, videos, radio stations or television shows that use the phrase ‘Hip Hop‘ in the title or marketing body of their work will have to pay AMO Inc a licensing fee”, Gonahangya told reporters. ‘We are not attempting to stifle free speech or muzzle popular culture.. we have no legal grounds from preventing anyone who wishes to use the word in everyday speech, however if you are using the word in a manner that associates you with a salable product, then we fully intend to collect our fee”.
Gonahangya went on to explain that what he is doing is not unusual. There are many popular words that are used in everyday conversations that are trademarked and cannot be used in commercial ventures without permission. ‘The word ‘Xerox‘ is often used interchangeably with ‘copy’. The word ‘Vaseline‘ is used interchangeably with lotion or grease. He also explained that the word Rock-N-Roll is trademarked by a major label record executive who at the time could not charge a licensing fee.
Gonahangya laid out his company’s strategy for 2003. He explained that AMO Inc is giving record labels and performers a one month grace period to get their business affairs in order. Starting in May letters will be sent out to anyone who is using the term ‘Hip Hop‘ explaining that the word is now trademarked and that if they wish to continue to use it in the body of their work, they will have to register with his company and be assessed a licensing fee. Letters have already been sent to several Hip Hop internet websites with more to come. He estimated the average fee will be anywhere from 2-5 thousand dollars plus residual fees per project. Permission to use the word will be on a case by case basis. In addition any future projects released using the term ‘ Hip Hop’ will have to have the ‘TM’ symbol next to the word.
When asked if he felt AMO Inc was being exploitative and attempting to blackmail a viable popular culture, Gonahangya bluntly stated; ‘This is not about culture. This is about business… The laws have been set up for anyone and everyone to use. Our company took advantage of what was on the books for almost a year and that what we are doing is now perfectly legal… Hip Hop is a big multi-billion dollar a year business. I was surprised that a big executive like Russell Simmons or Clive Davis or even business savy rappers like Jay-Z, P-Diddy or Eminem never trademarked the phrase. Everyone in America knows that you don’t do business without protecting your assets. It’s just plain stupid to leave yourself this wide open.. If the Hip Hop community is that dumb when it comes to business then too bad. Don’t make me out to be the bad guy”.
When asked if he intends to share any of the profits from licensing the word ‘Hip Hop’ with any of Hip Hop’s pioneers including Lovebug Starski who first coined the phrase back in the late 70s or Afrika Bambaataa who popularized and spread the word, Gonahangya laughed. ‘I never heard of a Mr Starski and as for sharing profits with people from Africa..No, my people are originally from Denmark, Norway.
When another reporter told Gonahangya that Afrika Bambaataa was someone’s name, Gonahangya shrugged it off and said he had no intentions of sharing the profits with anyone but his company and his family.” However, he did offer a discounted licensing fee for Starski and Bambaataa since they coined and helped popularized the term.
When asked if there would be any sort of criteria set up to determine who will and will not be allowed to use the phrase ‘Hip Hop’, Gonahangya explained that for most part if a company has the money and a viable revenue stream for residual payments then it should be a ‘piece of cake’. As for criteria, Gonahangya explained that he has very little tolerance and respect for individuals and companies that are attempting to use the phrase Hip Hop for political gain.
“Recently the term ‘Hip Hop‘ has been positioned as a progressive/liberal movement. That’s unfair and a totally one-sided approach to what is an American institution.Hip Hop is for everyone. It is not a slick political campaign tool for Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or Hillary Clinton.”, he retorted
Gonahangya became evasive when asked if he would allow the term Hip Hop to be used by any of the conservative organizations that he regularly associates with and lobbies for. ” To be honest we have not ruled them out. We believe that Hip Hop needs to be politically balanced. For years Hip Hop has been associated with liberal causes that have totally undermined the moral fiber of this country. We will be very selective as to how Hip Hop will be used politically”, he said
Gonahangya continued; “I will assure you this… In the future you will not be seeing billboards or magazine ads with the words Hip Hop’ and Reparations, ‘Hip Hop’ and Affirmative Action or even ‘Hip Hop’ and Black Power anytime soon. If it hasn’t come through our offices and been granted a licensing fee then its existence will be in violation of the Millennium Copyright Act of 2001 and we intend to aggressively go after any violators and prosecute. This about political integrity and money”.
Some are speculating that Gonahangya intends to use his ownership of the now trademarked term ‘Hip Hop‘ to quiet down any sort of political movement that has been organizing around the term in time for the 2004 elections.
We caught up with Greg Watkins webmaster of the popular site allhiphop.com and he noted that he had received a letter from Gonahangya’s AMO Inc company earlier this month. “He told us in the letter that we were in violation of his this trademark law and that me and my partner Chuck would have to pay licensing fee if we wanted to keep the word ‘Hip Hop in our name. We checked with our lawyers and found out that we were safe because we are allhiphop and not just ‘hip hop‘. It’s obvious these guys are serious about collecting their money”.
We caught up with long time Bay Area writer and Hip Hop deejay Billy Jam who does the Hip Hop Slam radio show and has the website Hip Hop Slam. “Yeah this attorney contacted my attorney and said I would have to take the ‘Hip Hop‘ out of Hip Hop Slam or pay a fee if I want to continue doing business. At first I thought it was a joke and then days later I received a subpoena to show up in court. I was told if I don’t remove the word Hip Hop from Hip Hop Slam or pay a licensing fee then I could lose my house, my car and my prized record collection”. Normally I don’t give a damn about such things, but I can’t afford to lose my records”, Billy Jam said
We caught up with popular Bay Area rapper /writer JR The Rap Slanger out of East Oakland. He said: “Look man, this country’s always been about business and fools is gonna try and collect their paper. But this is straight up bullS%$T. How’s this fool gonna try and trademark a word and collect a fee? Brothas need to rise up and retaliate and put a foot in his ass. But let’s be honest, me personally I don’t have to worry because I’m not really Hip Hop. I rap. I’m a rapper. There’s a difference between rap and Hip Hop. I guess Hip Hop is gonna die but rap is gonna go on forever! He didn’t trademark the word Rap did he? “
As far as I can tell the word rap is not trademarked. Nor can it be because of it’s long standing everyday usage.
We checked with famed NY copyright attorney Arnold Esquire Sullivan and he soberly explained that the new provisions that have been added does indeed give AMO Inc the right to trademark and collect a licensing fee for use of the word Hip Hop and any other coined ‘unique‘ phrase. If the word is made up or unique to the American lexicon then it can be trademarked and people will have to pay a fee if they wish to use it in any sort of business endeavor.
Sullivan explained the new amendment went through around the same time they were crafting the Patriot Act. “It’s a shame people went to sleep on this. I hate to say this but Negroes had better wake up and start smelling the coffee. These people in Washington are not playing”.
Sullivan concluded by noting that failure to comply with the new trademark laws can result in serious economic repercussions and a stiff 5 year prison sentence. He noted that the stiff prison sentence came after music industry executives and software companies lobbied congress for harsher penalties for bootleggers and other ‘copyright’ thieves’. “Unfortunately this new trademark law as it pertains to the phrase Hip Hop can potentially land people in jail if they try to make a profit off it’, Sullivan noted.
At the end of the press conference Gonahangya explained that he is currently in negotiations with a major broadcast company so that they will have the exclusive rights to the word ‘Hip Hop’. Gonahangya declined to name the outlet that he is dealing with, but he did note that should everything work out according to plan this media outlet has vast resources and will set up offices throughout the country and help determine which projects and products will be allowed to use the term ‘Hip Hop’. Gonahangya refused to say whether or not it would be an outlet like Clear Channel, Viacom or Emmis that would be determining who can or cannot use the word ‘Hip Hop’. “It would be premature for me to give out that information”, he said
It is clear that big corporations and government lobbyist now own Hip Hop.
Gonahangya also reiterated the fact that he is extending a month long grace period. He also used the occasion to pitch his new licensing service. In what appeared to be a real cheesy move he stated that he was offering a one time discount for the next two weeks. He explained that he understands that there are a lot of non-profits that use the phrase Hip Hop in literature and other marketing schemes and as a result they will be granted a one time 500 dollar processing fee and will subjected to the similar constraints of their 501 non profit status. That means they can not use Hip Hop as a political marketing arm.
Non political Independent record labels and artist can obtain a lifetime license to use the word Hip Hop for 500 dollars. Gonahangya explained that he believes in doing things for the community and this is his way of giving back.
“Let it not be said I don’t care for the underdog”, he said. AMO Inc is all about helping the downtrodden. We normally charge on average of 5000 thousand plus lifetime residual fees, but because we care about the little people we will offer Hip Hop [TM] for 500 dollars licensing fee for the next two weeks.
If anyone wishes to fill out an application to see if you qualify to use the term ‘Hip Hop’ in your product or if you want more information on AMO Inc call them at 1-800-233-456
or Go to their webpage.
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