Jay Z, Timbaland and other representatives of various music agencies will finally come to court to comment on one of the longest-running lawsuits in the United States, questioning the use of a sample in the single "Big Pimpin'." The emcee and the producer will comment at a trial scheduled to begin in October after more than 16 years of legal wrangling.
Hov and Timbaland were working on Vol. 3...Life and Times of S. Carter, when the producer found an Egyptian track from the soundtrack to the film Fata Ahlami. he assumed the album was public domain and sampled the now-famous flute line and looped it for "Big Pimpin'," which would go on to become a smash hit.
It turned out the song, "Khosara, Khosara"—originally composed by Baligh Hamdy—wasn't public domain at all, and a foreign branch of EMI came calling, demanding payment for the unlicensed sample. The emcee and producer didn't put up much of a fight, paying $100,000 for the rights, and expected the whole ordeal to be over after that.
Osama Ahmed Fahmy, a nephew of the original performer, brought a lawsuit during 2007 claiming that the family is owed more money on the basis that Egyptian law allows artists to claim ethical exceptions to their work being used in other media, even if they've sold the rights.
A few reasons why Fahmy's lawsuit raises eyebrows:
01) Although Egypt very well feature clauses to allow the artist to control use of their work after selling it off, American law would never feature allow such bylaws unless otherwise stipulated in a contract. And even if it did, it seems unlikely that an American court feels the need to enforce Egyptian law.
02) As Fahmy waited eight years after the initial deal to bring a lawsuit, is it still within the statute of limitations, even if the lawsuit is valid?
03) The wide range of defendants featured in the lawsuit suggests that this goes beyond "morals," and smacks of a get-rich-quick scheme: Jay Z, Timbaland, EMI, Universal Music, Paramount Pictures (due to its use in a Jay Z documentary), MTV (for use in a TV special) and more are listed as defendants.
Those in support of artist freedom will be further irked by the hiring of Judith Finell for testifying on behalf of Fahmy's cause. She's the same musicologist who worked for the Marvin Gaye estate during this year's "Blurred Lines" battle with Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams.