Big victory for Big Pimpin’

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“Big Pimpin”, Jay Z’s chart topping rap number had been at the center of a longstanding copyright lawsuit. The law suit was initially filed in 2007 by Osama Fahmy, nephew of Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi, whose song ‘Khosara Khosara’ was partially featured in the 2000 hit. Last week the US District Court in Los Angeles ruled that Mr. Fahmy ‘lacked the standing’ for his copyright lawsuit against both Jay Z (Shawn Carter) and producer Timbaland (Timothy Mosley).

A flute riff composed by the late Baligh Hamdi, from the song Khosara Khosara, is repeated throughout Big Pimpin’. The Egyptian song was first featured in a 1960 film titled ‘Fata Ahlami’. According to Jay Z and the producer of the song Timbaland, the hook or the sample of Khosara Khosara was licensed to them. They paid $100,000 in total to EMI Music Arabia for the license in 2001. The trouble started when the Egyptian composer’s nephew filed a complaint stating that the usage of the song in Big Pimpin’ violated his ‘moral rights’. Mr. Fahmy vehemently argued that by licensing the song he had only given up his economic rights, such as right of reproduction and adaptation, to Sout El Phan, the Middle Eastern record label. Sout El Phan in turn further licensed it to EMI for places outside Egypt. However, according to Mr. Fahmy giving up of economic right did not mean that he had also given up his moral rights, which were violated by using a sample of his uncle’s song without his or his family’s permission. He went on to say that was he made aware of the ‘vulgar and ‘risqué’ nature of the lyrics, he would have never given permission to use the song.

Before giving this verdict, Judge Snyder had stated before the Court that she will be deciding on two points. First, if the concept of ‘moral right’, which is Egyptian law, applied in this case and second, whether Timbaland’s license from EMI was valid. Once she decided on the aforementioned points would the case go to the jury. However, the judge ruled in favour of the rapper, stating the Mr. Fahmy had no standing to pursue the suit and that the in the light of this decision it would be unnecessary to submit to the jury whether Jay Z’s Big Pimpin’ infringed Khosara Khosara.

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