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Kanye West and Jay-Z, accused of using an unauthorized sample on the hit collaboration album, Watch The Throne, responded on Thursday to a lawsuit filed by soul and blues musician Syl Johnson.
In October, Johnson sued the superstar hip-hop duo, plus UMG and Def Jam, for allegedly taking a portion of his song “Different Strokes” without permission, payment, or credit.
Johnson claimed that West originally wanted to use the sample for his own solo album entitled My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but that the defendant was unable to obtain permission at the time of release. After failure to clear a license for the sample on one album, West’s use of the sample on another album without permission was said to be an example of knowing and willful misappropriation.
On Thursday, West and Jay-Z indicated how they intend to fight the lawsuit, denying much of the allegations except with the acknowledgment that their song, “The Joy,” which allegedly included Johnson’s work, was released prior to Watch The Throne and was also included on a deluxe version of the album.
The defendants challenge Johnson’s standing in bringing the case, question whether Johnson’s sound recording is protected by federal copyright since it was made before 1972 (when the law soon changed to cover sound recordings), and suggest they may have had license to use it.
West and Jay-Z also won’t admit that they used Johnson’s song, but believe that even if they did, they are protected from the plaintiff’s allegations. According to the their Answer, filed by attorney Carrie Hall:
“Any claim based on the alleged use of Plaintiffs’ recording is is barred because, inter alia, (a) the allegedly copied portion of the Plaintiff’s recording is not part of the musical composition; and, if it is part of the composition, (b) is not protectable and/or (c) any use was de minimus.”
Last week, Johnson was nominated for two Grammy Awards for best historical album and best liner notes, but told Billboard that it “should have been three,” referring to his contributions to the Grammy-nominated Watch The Throne.
“[Kanye] said he wanted to meet with me and apologize – since I sued him — but I didn’t sue him to be smart,” added Johnson. “I sued him because that’s the right thing to do man. I’m a musician.”
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