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Will Nike Sue Kanye for Defamatory Song Lyrics?

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on February 02, 2016 2:59 PM

Kanye West has made a name for himself saying and doing outrageous things. Shortly after he announced that he was a proud non-reader, he released a book. After his first Paris runway show was panned, he said the French did not know fashion. And now that his sneaker deal with Nike has gone down the drain, Kanye is making claims about the company that some suspect will lead to a lawsuit, reports Details.

Kanye West released a single on New Year's Eve, called "Facts." What's interesting about that title is that it implies that what follows in the song is true. And that makes him liable for defamation if what he is saying is not true and does damage to the targeted party, in this case Nike.

What Went Wrong?

Nike and Kanye had plans to put out a Yeezy sneaker and those plans fell apart. Kanye spoke on television about feeling suffocated by Nike and unhappy with the way things were going. When the business partnership split up, Kanye took his sneaker to Adidas and opined widely about Nike.

It might not have been the nicest thing to do, but assailing Nike was not a legal problem when Kanye was just expressing an opinion about the company. But in his song Facts certainly seems to suggest that what he says is the truth, and if it is not, he could find himself in trouble.

What Is Defamation?

Defamation suits are based on publication -- written or oral -- of a false statement to a third party. When publishing the false statement is shown to be negligent, then the defendant has to pay damages for the defamatory statement.

Although it is unlikely Nike will act on the lyrical insult flung by Kanye, the possibility cannot be ruled out. West has said the company relies on slave labor and is not profitable, among other insults.

According to an analysis of the song lyrics by bloggers at The Fashion Law, Nike could argue that it was being damaged by Kanye's lyrical statements. "Considering that West is accusing the company of slave labor and asserting that it is not faring well financially (which we know, based on the company's recent financial reports, simply is not true) ... it seems Nike has a case for libel."

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