The copyright lawsuit against Timbaland and Jay Z for their 1999 hit “Big Pimpin’” is headed to trial in October and both will be called to testify. The courtroom battle will likely be as contentious as the “Blurred Lines” trial, if not even more so. It will also be better, because Robin Thicke will not be present.
Timbaland and Jay Z are among the parties accused of improperly sampling the song “Khosara, Khosara” (by Egyptian musician Baligh Hamdi) for Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin’.” Hamdi’s nephew Osama Ahmed Fahmy initially filed a lawsuit in 2007 that, in addition to Jay Z and Timbaland, also names EMI, Universal Records and MTV.
Billboard describes it as “one of the longest-running active lawsuits in America, not just entertainment.” Here’s how it all started (way back in the ’90s), based on legal proceedings so far:
At the recording session, Timbaland grabbed a CD that contained Middle Eastern music he believed to be in the public domain. He found a particularly distinctive Egyptian composition — the kind of song one might expect to be played for a belly dance. Timbaland focused on a particular measure of this song with an amazing flute melody and looped it. Jay Z’s rap (“You know I, thug ‘em, f—- ‘em, love ‘em, leave ‘em”) came on top. And so “Big Pimpin” was created.
EMI Arabia later discovered the sample, which resulted in Timbaland paying $100,000 for its usage:
When Jay Z’s hit came out, a foreign subsidiary of EMI identified the sample as coming from the Baligh Hamdy composition “Khosara, Khosara” from the 1960 Egyptian film Fata ahlami. EMI claimed rights stemming from a deal with an Egyptian outfit that had made its own agreement with Hamdy’s heirs. Timbaland then paid $100,000 to EMI for rights to use the sample, and that money was supposed to end any dispute. Except it didn’t.
Unfortunately for Timbaland et. al, this isn’t just a matter of sampling. Fahmy is claiming that Timbaland and others failed to create a thorough publishing agreement that rightly compensated the song’s creator.
What further complicates the case is that EMI Arabia was actually licensing “Khosara, Khosara” from the Egyptian label Sout el Phan. So the question is, who had permission to allow Timbaland to use it?
Jay Z’s team thinks this is all ludicrous. They’re arguing that the licensing is all cleared and that Fahmy already gave up his rights to EMI. Via Billboard:
If this case was as simple as determining whether “Khosara, Khosara” was illicitly copied, and the damage therein, it would be interesting enough. Here, for example, are some of the exhibits attached to a deposition that Jay Z gave in the case: A Live Nation touring business plan, royalty statements for Jay Z and his agreement with Roc-A-Fella Records.
The quirks of the case add to the intrigue.
The Jay Z side believes that it has properly licensed “Khosara, Khosara,” and even if not, it’s not for Fahmy to challenge. Soon after Timbaland made his $100,000 deal, Fahmy reached agreement with the Egyptian outfit that had given EMI rights. According to court documents, the Hamdy heirs got a “lump-sum buyout” in exchange for assigning song rights.
Adding to the potential zoo-like atmosphere of this trial is the fact that the music industry’s foremost attorneys are involved and that Judith Finell—the musicologist from the “Blurred Lines” trial—will be called as a witness. Other witnesses include an economist, a marketing expert and entertainment reporter Sam Rubin.
Contact the author at email@example.com.
Images via AP; Getty