JAY-Z Wins ‘Big Pimpin” Copyright Infringement Lawsuit
JAY-Z scored a significant victory in his legal dispute over his 1999 hit “Big Pimpin’.” The decade-long case involves the nephew of the late Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdy who filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the Roc Nation mogul claiming he sampled his uncle’s 1957 song “Khosara Khosara” without permission.
On Thursday (May 31), a federal appeals court ruled 3-0 that the nephew, Osama Ahmed Fahmy, could not sue Jay-Z and producer Timbaland solely because Egyptian law recognized an “inalienable moral right” of authors to object to improper uses of copyrighted works.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, when "Big Pimpin" came out in 1999, Timbaland assumed that the song was in the public domain, but in 2000 Timbaland paid EMI Music Arabia $100,000 for song rights after that publisher objected. Fahmy found out about “Big Pimpin’” around the same time, and sued in 2007, claiming he retained some rights to “Khosara.”
The case lingered on for several years and, at one point, went to trial in 2015, but the judge curtailed the proceedings by granting JAY-Z's motion for a judgment as a matter of law.
In this new ruling, Circuit Judge Carlos Bea said that U.S. courts could not impose Fahmy’s moral rights to the song, while Egyptian law allows artists like JAY-Z and Timbaland to pay for the right to use such songs.
Bea acknowledges that an author's moral rights in Egypt include a limited right to object to "distortions" or "mutilations," but also added that "the record does not support Fahmy’s argument that the specific right to prepare derivative works for profit is a non-transferable, non-economic right," reports THR.
“This is a seminal decision from this circuit on moral rights,” Christine Lepera, a lawyer for the defendants, said in an email (via courthousenews.com). “The plaintiff did not have economic rights in the allegedly infringed ‘Khosara’ composition, and thus no right to sue for infringement.”
Attorneys for Osama Ahmed Fahmy had no comment on the matter.