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Lawsuit Claims Jay-Z's 'Big Pimpin' Violates Egyptian 'Moral Rights'

Rapper and business mogul Shawn Carter ("I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man!"), aka Jay-Z, had a smash hit in 2000 with his single "Big Pimpin." The song features a catchy loop of an Egyptian song from the 1960s called "Khosara, Khosara," which Jay-Z licensed from one of the children of the song's creator, Baligh Hamdy. The children inherited the song's copyright interests upon Hamdy's death in 1993.

"Big Pimpin," of course, turned into what Rolling Stone has called one of the top 500 songs of all time. In 2007, however, one of Hamdy's children, Osama Ahmed Fahmy, sued Jay-Z, EMI publishing and a host of others, claiming that even though Jay-Z had a license to use the song, that license only gave him  “economic rights”, i.e., the right to reproduce, perform or distribute the work “without alteration.” As Hollywood, Esq. explains, the plaintifs claim that because Jay-Z altered "Khosara, Khosara" by sampling and looping parts of it and adding his own lyrics on top of it, he violated a concept called “moral rights," which exist under Egyptian copyright code:

Egyptian copyright law also confers to owners “moral rights” over copyrighted work, which, according to the plaintiff's experts, can’t be disposed of like “economic rights.” Basically, if Jay-Z wished to “mutilate” the original song by sampling it, looping it and adding his lyrics, the plaintiff argues he needed to get the express permission of each of Hamdy's four children.

Jay-Z argued, among other things, that the federal court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over alleged violations of Egyptian “moral rights,” but in an opinion issued on May 2, 2011, U.S. Judge Christina Snyder disagreed. The court ruled that additional fact-finding was necessary on the issue of whether the use of "Khosara Khosara" was outside the scope of the licenses at issue.

For those of you who do not already have the "Big Pimpin" loop of "Khosara, Khosara" stuck in your head, here it is. You're welcome!

Posted by Bruce Carton on May 9, 2011 at 04:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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