Moral rights case against Jay-Z allowed to proceed

June 2011


A US judge has allowed a lawsuit against Jay-Z and a number of other entertainment companies including Universal and MTV to proceed, in relation to his 2000 track ‘Big Pimpin’, even though the case is, in the main, based on elements of Egyptian copyright law, including its interpretation of moral rights.

The case concerns the use of a sample in the hip hop track. It appears that Jay-Z’ had licensed the piece of music in question by Baligh Hamdy, which comes from the 1960 Egyptian film ‘Fata Ahlami’, but – according to the now deceased author’s family – the licence was to make a mechanical copy of the piece of music, not to adapt it and further that the adaptation itself was a ‘mutilation’ of the original work, and therefore the moral rights of Hamdy’s descendents have been infringed. The case was brought by Osama Ahmed Fahmy, a nephew of Baligh Hamdy. Judge Christina Snyder did not concur with defence arguments that principles of Egyptian law had no place in a trial, and let the case proceed saying Hamdy’s family had a strong enough case under US law for their lawsuit to go to a full hearing. US copyright law does recognise the concept of moral rights but, as in the UK, it’s a weak part of the copyright which has not been applied to sampling.

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