Jay-Z Copyright Trial Begins in Los Angeles
Jay- Z’s copyright trial over his 1999 hit Big Pimpin’ has begun in Los Angeles.
The rapper is accused of using the melody of Egyptian songwriter Baligh Hamdi’s 1957 song Khosara Khosara without permission.
Jay-Z’s lawyers and producer hip-hop Timbaland say they secured the appropriate rights to feature the tune in the chorus.
The misician is due to testify along with an expert on Egyptian music.
The case has taken years to get to court, with Baligh Hamdi’s nephew, Osama Ahmed Fahmy, first filing a legal complaint in 2007.
Osama Ahmed Fahmy’s lawyer Peter Ross claimed Jay-Z had purposefully avoided asking permission because they knew it wouldn’t be granted because of the risqué lyrics used on Big Pimpin’.
“You have to go to the composer himself, or his heirs, play the work, and get his approval,” Peter Ross said.
“That he never did.”
The lawyer also accused Jay-Z of violating Baligh Hamdi’s “moral rights” – a legal concept he claimed was well-established in Egypt which would have required the musicians to get permission to use elements of Khosara Khosara in a song celebrating a promiscuous lifestyle.
Jay-Z’s lawyer Andrew Bart argued that the lyrics of Big Pimpin’ should not be discussed in relation to the trial.
District Court Judge Christina Snyder agreed, saying examining Jay-Z’s lyrics would be irrelevant in this case.
Timbaland’s lawyer Christine Lepera said the producer used Baligh Hamdi’s tune – which featured in a 1957 Egyptian film and became a major hit – without realizing it was owned by EMI Music Arabia.
The producers later paid $100,000 to the record label to acquire the license.
However, Osama Ahmed Fahmy argued the payment was inconsequential, and that only Baligh Hamdi’s heirs had the right to approve a derivative work of the musician’s composition.
Christine Lepera also denied Big Pimpin’ used major elements of Baligh Hamdi’s work, saying much of its music was simple and not subject to copyright.
She added that Osama Ahmed Fahmy’s legal claim was an “effort to get an undeserved income”.
The trial is the second high-profile musical copyright case, after a federal jury ruled earlier this year Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams plagiarized Marvin Gaye in their hit Blurred Lines.
Marvin Gaye’s family were initially awarded $7.4 million, but that was later reduced to $5.3 million.