LOCATION: LOS ANGELES
The Big Pimpin´ lawsuit, Jay Z & Egyptian flutes
“99 Problems” is one of the rapper Jay Z´s most famous songs. The lawsuit of today, though, is connected with another of his songs called “Big Pimpin´”. It was released as the fifth and last single from the rapper´s album “Vol 3… Life and times of S. Carter” back in year 2000 and the song has been rated by e.g The Rolling Stones magazine as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
What people might not know is that Big Pimpin´ is the object for a severe, ongoing copyright infringement lawsuit where the heir of an Egyptian composer is claiming that Jay Z and Timbaland (the producer of Big Pimpin´) have basically sampled his uncle´s Egyptian flute song from 1957 called “Khosara, Khosara”. The legal dispute has been ongoing for as long as eight years, as of 2015, and if one read the filed documents one can tell that the California Central District Court´s investigation has been quite thorough.
Why the case is relevant now is because it seems like the dispute once and for all will reach a resolution the 13th of October, e.g just in a few weeks. Then, Jay Z and Timbaland will meet the heir called Osama Fahmy in court.
Reportedly, the relevant background to the case is that Timbaland used a flute sample to use in Big Pimpin´ which he thought was in the public domain. Therefore, to be able to use it, he paid 100000 dollars to EMI Music Arabia which claimed they owned the legal rights to the Egyptian song. A claim that was wrong according to the heir and alleged copyright owner Osama Fahmy, which eventually resulted in this lawsuit.
Once again, the legal aspects of this case concerns an alleged infringement on the certain intellectual property rights we call copyrights. As earlier stated, there are a few law- stated exceptions such as e.g when a certain piece is used in a parody or satire. In certain cases, the result could be that the alleged copyright infringement would be considered as legal through such exceptions. But this, only if e.g the parody is not offensive towards the right owner, a sort of a moral right (in Sweden, see Lag (1960:729) om upphovsrätt till litterära och konstnärliga verk, 3§ 2st.).
Concerning moral rights, in this case, not only has Osama Fahmy claimed copyright infringement, but he also states that the use of his uncle´s flute song in Big Pimpin´constitutes a violation of his moral rights because of the lyrics. This fact has, though, already been tested by the California Central District Court with the result that they found his argument null in the U.S.
So the most important issue is yet to be examined; whether the Jay Z and Timbaland song Big Pimpin´ constitutes a copyright infringement on the Egyptian flute song Khosara, Khosara, or not. The outcome of this verdict will be extremely interesting due to the fact that the Blurred Lines verdict(link here) earlier this year (in the same district court) was claimed to have lowered the requirements for what can be considered as music sampling. If this case too will be considered as an illegal sampling, the wind of change in the music industry most likely can be said to have become a storm.
And concerning Jay Z;
it seems like his 99 problems just turned into 100.