Jay Z Wins Copyright Trial Over Egyptian "Big Pimpin' " Sample

The judge found the plaintiff lacked standing for his copyright lawsuit against the rapper and producer Timbaland.
AP
Jay Z

Jay Z’s got 99 problems, but an unfavorable verdict in the trial over his hit "Big Pimpin' " ain’t one.

In court Wednesday, judge Christina Snyder found the nephew of Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi did not have standing to pursue the claim that Jay Z and producer Tim "Timbaland" Mosley illicitly sampled his uncle’s song "Khosara Khosara" in the iconic hook of "Big Pimpin'."

The verdict ended a weeklong trial in which the plaintiff, Osama Fahmy, argued the Egyptian concept of "moral rights" applied to Jay Z’s license for "Khosara Khosara" and required the rapper, Timbaland and their record label to get Hamdi’s family’s permission to sample "Khosara Khosara."

Jay Z and Timbaland responded that Fahmy could not invoke Egyptian moral rights over Timbaland’s license for the song from EMI, and when Fahmy signed rights to "Khosara Khosara" to the Middle Eastern record label Sout El Phan over a decade ago, he gave up standing to file the lawsuit.

Snyder told the court yesterday she would decide whether Egyptian law applied and whether Timbaland’s license from EMI was valid. If she decided it did, the question of whether Jay Z and Timbaland infringed would go to the jury.

"Fahmy lacked standing to pursue his claim," said Snyder in court Wednesday. "In light of that decision, it will not be necessary to submit to the jury whether 'Big Pimpin' ' infringed 'Khosara Khosara.' "

"I had to hear the testimony of Egyptian law experts in order to reach that decision," she added. She discharged the jury at about 10:30 a.m.

"We disagree strongly with the ruling, and we fully intend to appeal," Fahmy attorney Keith Wesley told The Hollywood Reporter. "We haven’t fully formulated our appeal strategy, but certainly we believe the court committed legal error in failing to restrict the license under Egyptian law."

Fahmy’s lawsuit, filed in 2007, developed into one of the most complicated in the country. Represented by Wesley and Peter Ross, Fahmy argued he might have given up "economic rights" of reproduction and adaptation to Sout El Phan — which in turn licensed "Khosara Khosara" to EMI for outside Egypt — but did not (and never could) give up "moral rights" of permission for derivative works.

Jay Z and Timbaland contended Fahmy only could hold moral rights in Egypt, while the 2001 license they received from EMI for $100,000 specifically excluded use in Egypt. Whether Egyptian law applied or not was the question facing judge Snyder on Tuesday. (Read more on the issue here.)

The Los Angeles courtroom heard testimony from Jay Z and Timbaland, musicologists who discussed the importance of the "Khosara" sample in "Big Pimpin'," Egyptian copyright lawyers and reps for other defendants, who included Paramount (for releasing the Jay Z concert film Fade to Black) and the rock band Linkin Park, who featured "Big Pimpin' " on a collaborative album.

"We and our clients obviously are very pleased with this decision. The court correctly ruled that the plaintiff had no right to bring this case and cannot pursue any claim of infringement in connection with 'Big Pimpin' ' whatsoever," said the defendants' attorney Christine Lepera in a statement.

"After a lengthy litigation, Defendants have been vindicated in their position that they have every right to exploit 'Big Pimpin' ' wherever they choose, including in records, films and concerts," added her co-counsel David Steinberg, who represented defendants including Universal Music and Warner Music.

"My client is pleased with and feels vindicated by the decision," added Jay Z's attorney Andrew Bart.

Oct. 21, 11:52 a.m. Updated with comment from Jay Z and Fahmy's attorneys and additional detail on the proceedings.

comments powered by Disqus