Jay Z's 'Big Pimpin' Puts Live Nation in Crosshairs of Lawsuit

Jay Z H 2015
AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

Jay Z H 2015

The marathon litigation over Jay Z's sampling of an old Egyptian tune for his blockbuster song "Big Pimpin' " took a new turn on Wednesday after the nephew of a deceased Egyptian composer filed a new copyright infringement lawsuit against Live Nation.

Few legal disputes in the entertainment industry are older than Osama Ahmed Fahmy's war over "Big Pimpin'." Jay Z himself as well as MTV, Paramount Pictures, Warner Music and others are still involved in an 8-year-old case examining allegations that the song's unmistakably catchy hook illicitly derives from "Khosara, Khosara" from the 1960 Egyptian film Fata Ahlami. As that case proceeds, a new lawsuit was launched yesterday that aims to hold Live Nation responsible for its part.

According to the complaint, "Big Pimpin' " has been mentioned regularly in Jay Z concert previews and a "substantial percentage of people who purchased tickets to Jay Z's shows hoped he would perform 'Big Pimpin',' expected he would perform 'Big Pimpin',' and would have been disappointed if he had not performed 'Big Pimpin'.' On information and belief, Live Nation has profited substantially from Jay Z's performance of 'Big Pimpin',' including, but not limited to, profits from ticket sales, merchandise, parking, concessions, and other revenue streams."

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The latest legal action attempts to lay direct and contributory copyright liability on the concert promotion giant.

"Live Nation knew that 'Big Pimpin' ' infringed upon the 'Khosara, Khosara' copyright, but it nevertheless continued to sponsor, promote, and facilitate Jay-Z's performances of the infringing work," states the lawsuit.

The epic litigation over "Big Pimpin'," which originally came out in 2000, has refused to settle and has explored some interesting legal issues.

In the early days of the prior, still-ongoing lawsuit, a California federal judge was forced to examine the "moral rights" of authors under Egyptian law upon Fahmy's allegation that Jay Z had mutilated "Khosara, Khosara" through sampling. More recently, there's been the issue of laches — or an unreasonable delay in pursuing a right or claim — and thanks to a Supreme Court opinion involving Raging Bull, the judge in the case reconsidered an opinion that barred Fahmy from pursuing damages during certain years.

Then there's the issue of how "Big Pimpin' " producers executed in 2001 a settlement with EMI, which once asserted rights to "Khosara, Khosara" based on an agreement with the Egyptian outfit Sout El Phan. The agreement expired in 2006, and Fahmy argues it's void because the real owners of "Khosara, Khosara" never consented to it. Earlier this month, Fahmy brought a summary judgment motion arguing that Jay Z was not conveyed a valid license to make the sample. A hearing is scheduled on the matter in late March.

The newest lawsuit against Live Nation, filed by attorneys at Browne George Ross, seeks actual damages and profits as well as an injunction restraining Live Nation from promoting, producing or facilitating any live performance of "Big Pimpin'."

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner