Shawn “Jay Z” Carter has won a copyright infringement case originally filed back in 2007, involving his 1999 hit single “Big Pimpin.” In a rare instance in which a copyright case involving a hit song actually reached the trial stage, U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder dismissed the lawsuit against Jay Z and his producer Timbaland, ruling that the heir of an Egyptian composer lacked standing to pursue the copyright infringement claim.
The nephew of Baligh Hamdi, an Egyptian composer, whose 1957 song “Khosara Khosara” is partially used in “Big Pimpin,” brought suit against Jay Z and Timbaland claiming that flute notes that Hamdi composed are repeated throughout the song, infringing “Khosara Khosara” without proper permission. Jay Z and Timbaland testified that they paid $100,000 to EMI Music Arabia for a license to the flute sounds in the hook of the song, in 2001. Lawyers for the family of the Egyptian composer argued that in addition to paying EMI for the license, Jay Z and Timbaland should have also asked the composer’s family for permission to use the song in connection with a rap song whose lyrics were “vulgar” and “risqué.” This verdict abruptly ended a trial which aside from claims of copyright infringement also touched on the claim that “Khosara Khosara” was used in an offensive manner, in violation of the Egyptian composer’s “moral rights” under Egyptian law.
This case marks the second time this year that a jury has heard a copyright infringement case involving a major recording artist. In March, jurors awarded Marvin Gaye’s estate $7.4 million after finding that the 2013 Pharrell produced hit “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, copied Gaye’s hit “Got to Give It Up.” No such jury award was found here, however, the lawyers for Hamdi’s family have stated that they intend to appeal the decision. At least for the time being, Jay Z might have “99 problems” but this copyright infringment lawsuit is not one of them.