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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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‘Big Pimpin” Copyright Fight Ends With a Win for Jay-Z

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Jay-Z did not infringe copyright when he and producer Timbaland sampled the composition "Khosara, Khosara" for his hit single "Big Pimpin,'" a federal judge ruled from the bench on Wednesday morning.

Eight years ago, Osama Ahmed Fahmy claimed rapper and mogul Jay-Z did not ask for permission when he sampled the composition "Khosara, Khosara," written by Fahmy's uncle, the Egyptian songwriter Baligh Hamdi.

U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder's decision brings to an abrupt end a trial that began last Tuesday and was scheduled to last two weeks.

The judge dismissed the jury shortly after issuing her decision, informing them that after hearing testimony from experts on Egyptian law she had decided to side with Jay-Z and Timbaland and dismiss the case for lack of standing.

"My client is pleased and gratified by the decision," Jay-Z's attorney Andrew Bart said outside the courtroom.

Timbaland's attorney Christine Lepera said that her client was "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," Lepera said in a statement. "Defendants have maintained throughout that Mr. Fahmy has no right to sue for infringement in connection with 'Big Pimpin'' and that fact has now been established."

Fahmy's lawyer Peter Ross said outside the courtroom that the court had made the wrong decision and that his client would appeal.

Snyder's ruling comes after Jay-Z and music producer Timbaland's lawyers argued in court papers filed Tuesday that Fahmy could not assert so-called "moral rights" to the composition in the United States.

Fahmy's lawyers argued during the six days of trial that Egypt's moral-rights law gave Hamdi and his heirs an "inalienable" right to prevent a use of "Khosara, Khosara" that alters the song.

Timbaland looped four measures of an Arabic flute for Jay-Z's 2000 hit "Big Pimpin'"

But David Steinberg told Snyder during yesterday's proceedings that moral rights only apply to contracts in Egypt.

EMI Music Arabia licensed the use of the "Khosara, Khosara" sample to Timbaland in every territory except Egypt, the jury of six men and two women heard during the trial.

Jay-Z and Timbaland's lawyers also asserted in court papers that Fahmy did not hold an exclusive economic right to license or prevent the use of the sample in the U.S., and did not have standing to pursue the claims.

Snyder agreed in a tentative ruling she shared with lawyers on Wednesday morning.

Fahmy's lawyer Peter Ross had urged Snyder to instruct the jury on the Egyptian law and allow them to make a determination.

"In my view this isn't a difficult exercise," Ross told the court on Tuesday, arguing that Egyptian law is clear: Hamdi and his heirs retained the right to approve any use of "Khosara, Khosara" that "mutilates" or "distorts" the original work.

Jay-Z was present for the first two days of the federal copyright trial. Timbaland and Jay-Z both took the stand last Wednesday. They were not in court to hear the decision.

In winning the case, Jay-Z and Timbaland have avoided the kind of adverse judgment that led to a $7.4 million verdict - later cut to $5.3 million - for Marvin Gaye's family, who claimed that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams had copied Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" for their number-one hit "Blurred Lines."

When he took the stand last week, Jay-Z testified that he had no idea that Timbaland had sampled "Khosara, Khosara" when they created the song. Timbaland testified the same day that he had thought the Arabic song was license free.

Timbaland paid EMI Music Arabia, which had licensed rights to "Khosara, Khosara," $100,000 for permission to use the sample, the jury heard at trial.

During testimony, Lepera asked Timbaland how he responded when he learned that Fahmy decided to sue him and Jay-Z in 2007.

"I was like, 'So who did I pay 100 grand to?'" Timbaland said.

"Big Pimpin'" was released in 2000 as single from Jay-Z's album "Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter." Other versions of the track appear on the albums "MTV Unplugged," a Jay-Z and Linkin Park mash-up album, the "Fade to Black" documentary and "Jay-Z: The Hits Collection Vol. 1."

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