Kanye and Jay-Z face sampling claim

November 2011

Music publishing, record labels

US musician Syl Johnson has filed a lawsuit against Kanye West and Jay-Z over the use of a sample of his song ‘Different Strokes’ on a track on the duo’s collaborative album ‘Watch The Throne’. Johnson’s record label Numero Uno had previously threatening legal action over the sample claiming that West’s label Def Jam had got in touch about licensing the track for sampling on West’s previous album ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, but that no agreement had been reached, and that no talks had ever taken place regarding ‘Watch The Throne’. The lawsuit, filed last week, also names Def Jam, Universal Music and Roc-A-Fella Records as defendants. Billboard notes that previous legal action taken by Johnson against Cypress Hill relating to an unapproved sample was unsuccessful because the track in question dated from before 1972, and judges ruled that the sound recording rights the singer said he owned were not therefore protected by federal law. As ‘Different Strokes’ was released in 1967 the new lawsuit specifically relies on Illinois state law, where the lawsuit was filed.
Syleena Johnson, daughter of Syl, has commented on her father’s lawsuit against Jay-Z and Kanye West in an interview with Sirius XM presenter Sway Colloway saying that her father has no issue with either Jay-Z or Kanye West personally, and that they are only named in his lawsuit because they have to be – it being their album at the heart of the dispute. But he actually holds their labels Def Jam, Universal Music and Roc-A-Fella Records accountable. She added that “he just wants his money”.

A brief comment on George Clinton’s view on sampling in Funk & Fraud – Music Icon George Clinton Discusses Copyright at Brooklyn Law School: http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=4&id=47020

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