Jay Z's not in fighting form as Baligh Hamdy copyright trial gets underway
The case is being watched with interest after a $7.4M payout from Pharrell and Robin Thicke in a copyright infringement suit earlier this year. (IME/Arabic melodies)
Megaproducer and rapper Jay Z appeared at the US District Court in Los Angeles as proceedings in the longstanding copyright case with the family of the late Egyptian artist Baligh Hamdy finally got underway, reported Reuters.
Dressed in a conservative navy suit and tie, Jay Z remained silent in court as his lawyers explained that the producer had properly acquired the rights to use the Egyptian composer's music in the 1999 hit "Big Pimpin".
Representatives for Hamdy's nephew Osama Ahmed Fahmy said that Jay Z, aka Shawn Carter, and producer Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley deliberately avoided requesting permission to sample Hamdy's music in advance because they allegedly knew it wouldn't be given due to the explicit lyrics of "Big Pimpin".
"You have to go to the composer himself, or his heirs, play the work, and get his approval," attorney Peter Ross told Reuters. "That, he never did."
Hamdy's 1957 Egyptian tune "Khosara, Khosara", sung by renowned Egyptian artist Abdel Halim Hafez, was used by Jay Z and Timbaland as a chorus loop for "Big Pimpin" allegedly without realizing it was owned by EMI Music Arabia. In 2001 the producers paid $100,000 to EMI Music Arabia to acquire the license.
Attorney Christine Lepera, representing the defendants, told the eight member jury that Fahmy's suit is an "effort to get an undeserved income", reported Reuters.
According to court documents, the plaintiffs are arguing that the payment is inconsequential, and that only Hamdy's heirs have the right to approve a derivative work of the late musician's composition.
"Big Pimpin" was a massive hit for Jay Z, whose estimated wealth was $520 million in 2014. Co-defendant Timbaland's estimated wealth is $85 million.
Jay Z's attorneys scored a minor victory as US District Court Judge Christina Snyder ruled in their favor of their request that the explicit lyrics of "Big Pimpin" not be discussed during the lawsuit, to avoid predjucing the jury against Jay Z .
The copyright case was filed in 2007, but is being watched with renewed interest in the wake of another high profile case. Earlier this year, a jury found singer-producers Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams guilty of plagiarizing late soul legend Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up" in their summer hit "Blurred Lines" and ordered a $7.4 million payout to the heirs of Gaye's estate.
Jay Z is scheduled to testify on Wednesday.