Jay Z in Copyright Dispute over ‘Big Pimpin’

Last week the details of the trial between multiplatinum hip-hop artist Jay Z and nephew of acclaimed Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi were released. Hamdi’s nephew Osama Fahmy has claimed that Jay Z and producer Tim ‘Timbaland’ Molsey did not properly license his uncle’s composition Khosara Khosara for the 1999 hip-hop anthem Big Pimpin.

Hamdi’s estate contends that Jay Z and Timbaland inserted an edit of Khosara Khosara into the introduction of Big Pimpin with complete disregard to Hamdi’s moral rights. (The reliance on moral rights is uncommon in the US but quite prevalent internationally.) Under Egyptian copyright law economic and morals rights differ. Being granted the economic rights to the copyrighted material allows for the lawful reproduction or use of the material in the form of a license. Morals rights are the authors rights to allow or prohibit works deriving from the original and these are not transferable. For several years Hamdi’s estate has been arguing that although Jay Z may have obtained the economic rights to sample the composition from EMI Arabia, they were never granted permission to edit Khosara Khosara from Hamdi’s heirs.

Chris Ancliff who was counsel for EMI Arabia at the time of the release of Big Pimpin  said in his testimony that Jay Z and Timberland had not infringed any rights related to Khosara Khosara because EMI’s deal with Sout EL Phan transferred all the song rights for everywhere but Egypt. Ancliff further stated that therefore EMI’s deal with Jay Z and Timbaland gave them the right to edit and insert Khosara Khosara into Big Pimpin outside of Egypt, and that moral rights could only be invoked within an Egyptian court.

The trial is set to continue over the next few weeks with representatives from Universal Music Group and MTV expecting to testify. The case is said to be the biggest music copyright case since the Marvin Gaye, Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams Blurred Lines Saga