Judge Dismisses Copyright Infringement Case Against Jay Z

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.

Photo: Rick Taber/AP
Outside of court in Los Angeles for a copyright infringement trial over his hit song “Big Pimpin’. “

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 weeklong 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 $100,000 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.

Jurors heard from witnesses who described contracts and copyright laws in both the United States and Egypt and music experts who offered dueling interpretations of how important the “Khosara Khosara” flute notes are to “Big Pimpin’.”

The flute notes are repeated throughout the song, which is a raunchy ode to a promiscuous lifestyle.

Ross has said the rap’s lyrics are at odds with the love ballad that Hamdi composed, but Carter’s lyrics were not an issue in the case. Jurors heard the beginning of “Big Pimpin’“ several times and saw a snippet of the music video, but the song was not played in its entirety during the trial.

The rapper performed at a New York concert to benefit his Tidal music streaming service Tuesday night, but did not perform “Big Pimpin’.”

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 $7.4 million 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 $5.3 million, and the artists’ lawyers are contesting the verdict.