Should Martin sue Trinidad James?

There has been a lot of speculation as to whether or not Martin Lawrence or those associated with his show Martin will sue Trinidad James for copyright infringement. 

Jerome v. Trinidad James

Rumor has it Martin is not happy with the similarities between Trinidad James’ persona and Martin’s character Jerome from his famed 90’s sitcom.  Jerome is known as the gold teeth wearing, afro-puff rocking, word-slurring, over-the-top character Martin created and portrayed over the years. The similarities to Trinidad James are uncanny so much so that fans have continued to make the connection and remix James’ songs and videos to include Jerome.

Although fans and those affiliated with the Martin sitcom may see the resemblance, is there enough here for Martin to make a case for copyright infringement?
Copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.
Martin’s likely argument would be that Trinidad James is violating his right to derivative works. This is the right to modify the work to create a new work. A new work that is based upon an existing work is a “derivative work.” For example copyright infringement would occur here if someone wrote a screenplay based on his favorite novel and sold or distributed the screenplay, or if someone releases or remixes of one of your songs without your consent. However, this argument would be extremely flawed in this case. Martin would need to weave a tale of an artist, Trinidad James, who basically recreated all that is/was Jerome as a rapper.Is James so similar to Jerome that his character was essentially transplanted into this decade and adopted by this rapper? Should Trinidad James be considered a derivative work of Jerome?

Although there is a noticeable resemblance, the basis of both the Jerome and Trinidad James personas is the “pimp” stereotype. Both draw on the stereotypical elements of the Jerry curl or afro, gold teeth and gaudy gold chains. Their connection would need to go beyond this to even begin to imply that there was some form of copying.  Based on all observation, they are two separate characters who though outwardly resemble have two different personalities and identities.  Jerome is most know for entering the room saying “I said Jerome in the house.” This is part of his identity as a character. To my knowledge, James has never used this slogan nor any other coined by Jerome. Merely drawing upon the same stereotypes is not foundation for copyright infringement based on the right of derivative work. Unless there are some additional similarities that are more specific than the stereotypical elements of an “old school pimp” there seem to be no grounds for a suit. If there were, Terrance Howard needs watch out because he’s next for his character DJay in Hustle and Flow.There is no basis to claim that Trinidad James and his persona are a copy of Jerome. At best there is a subtle compliment there, one fans can appreciate.

What do you think? Is Trinidad James a copy of Jerome? Should Martin sue?

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