Judge dismisses copyright infringement case against Jay Z

Jay Z. (Greatstock/Splash)
Jay Z. (Greatstock/Splash)

Los Angeles - A judge on Wednesday dismissed a copyright infringement case against rapper Jay Z over his 1999 hit Big Pimpin' before the case was sent to a jury.

U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder ruled that the heir of an Egyptian composer did not have the right to pursue a copyright infringement claim. She did not explain her decision in detail, but told jurors she tossed out the case after hearing testimony from experts on Egyptian law.

The nephew of Baligh Hamdi, an Egyptian composer whose 1957 song Khosara Khosara is partially used in Big Pimpin', sued Jay Z, producer Timbaland and several media companies in 2007. Flute notes that Hamdi composed appear throughout the Jay Z song, and nephew Osama Ahmed Fahmy claimed they had exploited Khosara Khosara without proper permission.

"We think it's completely wrong, and we'll appeal," Fahmy's attorney, Pete Ross, said after the ruling.

The abrupt end to the case came after the rapper and Timbaland testified early in the week-long trial about creating the rap hit and their belief that they had valid rights to use the Egyptian song. It is rare for copyright cases involving major media properties such as films or music to reach the trial stage.

Timbaland paid $100k in 2001 to settle a claim about usage of Hamdi's song, which was written for a 1957 film, and testified that he believed he could use it.

His attorney, Christine Lepera, praised the ruling, saying the hit-making producer had maintained throughout the eight-year case that he didn't infringe on any copyrights to create the music for the rap song.

Jay Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, also said he thought he had a valid license to use the flute notes for the song that became his first major hit single.

"My client is pleased with and gratified by the decision," Jay Z's attorney Andrew Bart said.

The case is the second time this year that a jury has heard a copyright infringement case involving a major recording artist. In March, a jury awarded Marvin Gaye's children $7.4m after finding that the 2013 hit Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams copied Gaye's hit Got to Give It Up.

A judge later trimmed the amount to $5.3m, and the artists' lawyers are contesting the verdict.