Jay Z and Timbaland: Drop the Suit Already

By: Scarinci Hollenbeck

Litigation, from the initial filing of the complaint through the exhaustion of the appellate process, can take years, if not decades. Hip-hop titans Jay Z and Timbaland could attest to this, as they’ve been involved in litigation over the 1999 song “Big Pimpin’” since 2007.

Jay Z and Timbaland Litigation

According to TV3 Group, the two rappers are now contending with an appeal of a recently dismissed copyright action initiated in 2007 by Osama Ahmed Fahmy, the nephew of the late Baligh Hamdi. Fahmy contends that Jay Z and Timbaland infringed his uncle’s “moral rights “ when the two used a clip of “Khosara, Khosara” in “Big Pimpin’” back in 1999. 

A look at the suit 

In 2007, Fahmy filed a lawsuit against Jay Z and Timbaland, among others, claiming their 1999 song “Big Pimpin'” included a flute sample featured in “Khosara, Khosara.” The New York Times reported that the two musicians paid EMI, the company that handles the licensing of Hamdi’s song outside of Egypt, $100,000 to use the sample. 

However, despite the fact that the musicians paid EMI for the rights to use the the sample, Fahmy claimed that EMI only controlled the economic rights to the song, not the late singer’s moral rights. Moral rights typically refer to an author’s right to prevent revision, alteration or distortion of a work and are more broadly protected outside of the US. Fahmy claimed that “Big Pimpin’” “mutilated” his uncle’s moral rights.

Jay Z and Timbaland win the suit

At the end of the day, Jay Z and Timbaland didn’t end up having to pay Fahmy any settlement. The Times noted U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder did not possess the standing required to pursue the infringement claim. For one thing, the two musicians already paid EMI for rights to use the song. Above all, Fahmy signed over economic rights to the song, and could not maintain moral rights to the song outside of Egypt. 

Now, Jay Z and Timbaland are asking a judge to dismiss Fahmy’s appeal of Snyder’s ruling. We’ll see how the situation turns out.

Do you have any questions? Would you like to discuss the matter further? If so, please contact me, Shane Birnbaum, at 201-806-3364.

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