Back in April we told you Jay Z would testify in an eight-year-old lawsuit accusing a 16-year-old song of ripping off a 58-year-old song. That trial began today in Los Angeles.
Some background on the case, which is one of the longest-running lawsuits in America: Even though Timbaland, who produced Jay and UGK’s 1999 hit “Big Pimpin’,” already paid EMI $100,000 for the rights to sample Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi’s 1957 love ballad “Khosara Khosara,” Hamdi’s nephew Osama Ahmed Fahmy sued Jay, Timbaland, EMI, Universal Music, Paramount Pictures, MTV, and other companies in 2007. In April, we knew Fahmy’s lawyers were planning to pursue a case related to Egyptian law; today we learned more about that case. We’ll let the Associated Press explain what Fahmy’s lawyer Pete Ross is attempting:
Ross… accused the men of violating Hamdi’s “moral rights,” a legal concept he said is well-established in Egypt that would have required them to get permission to use elements of “Khosara Khosara” in a song celebrating a promiscuous lifestyle.
So essentially because Jay and UGK’s lyrics included foul language and descriptions of sex and debauchery, they might end up losing millions in royalties, “Blurred Lines”-style. That’s pretty crazy! Here’s how Timbaland’s lawyer Christine Lepera responded, per the AP:
Lepera denied “moral rights” were at issue in the case and said evidence would show that Hamdi’s heirs had been repeatedly paid for the incorporating the composer’s music into “Big Pimpin’.” She also denied that the rap song use major elements of Hamdi’s work, saying much of its music was simple and not copyrightable.
An expert on Egyptian music is expected to testify about Hamdi’s influence on Wednesday. Check out footage of Jay and Timbaland leaving the courtroom below.
UPDATE: Billboard reports that Jay Z testified in court today, telling the jury that he believes he had a valid license to use elements of “Khosara Khosara” in “Big Pimpin.” He used one of his old CDs, introduced into evidence by a lawyer for Hamdi’s family, to make his case, pointing out the credits in the liner notes. “We have the rights, as you can see on the bottom of the CD,” he said. The rapper reportedly mixed in a few jokes with his testimony, making everyone in the courtroom laugh, and he detailed his working relationship with Timbaland and the creation of the song. “I like the song,” Jay Z said. “It’s pretty good.”
UPDATE 2: Jay Z also testified that he didn’t even know the song had a sample in it, Vulture reports. “I didn’t think there was a sample in it. Timbaland presented me with a track. I didn’t even think about there being a sample,” he told Hamdi’s nephew’s attorney. When asked how he could have not known, he replied, “That’s not what I do. I make music.” And when prompted by his lawyer to explain what else he does, this is the exchange that took place:
Jay Z: “I make music, I’m a rapper, I’ve got a clothing line, I run a label, a media label called Roc Nation, with a sports agency, music publishing and management. Restaurants and nightclubs … I think that about covers it.”
His lawyer: “I’m not so sure. You have a music streaming service [Tidal], don’t you?”
Jay Z: “Yeah, yeah. Forgot about that.”
Yes, that’s right, even Jay Z forgets that Tidal is a thing sometimes. (Sorry, Tidal.)
One other thing that happened: At the end of the day, Timbaland’s attorneys brought out a keyboard for him to produce a beat live in the courtroom to demonstrate the sample’s unimportance in the overall composition of the song. The keyboard didn’t actually work, however, so he ended up beatboxing instead. Yes, Timbaland beatboxed in a courtroom.