Jay Z wins single word sampling claim

January 2015

Sound recordings. Music publishing


An interesting case from the world of music sampling: A US Judge has thrown out a case against rapper Jay Z over the use of just one word ‘oh’ – from a recording and song by Eddie Bo called The Hook & Slings in Jay Z’s track and video Run This Town with the court saying “Run This Town bears very little and perhaps no similarity at all to Hook & Sling Part I. The melody and lyrics are entirely different. The lyrics do not contain the word “oh.” .. [It appears] only in the background and in such a way as to be audible and aurally intelligible only to the most attentive and capable listener.” This does though seem to sidestep the ruling made in Westbound Records and Bridgeport Music v No Limit Films (September 2004) by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals: here the court posed the question “If you cannot pirate the whole sound recording, can you ‘lift’ or ‘sample’ something less than the whole?” The Court’s answer to this was in the negative” and the court added “Get a license or do not sample – we do not see this as stifling creativity in any significant way” although that decision can itself be contrasted by US District Judge Alison Nathan’s more recent decision brought by the same plaintiff in the TufAmerica v Beastie Boys case in 2013. But in this case, the finding that a sample with a duration of a fraction of a second was de minimis use – trivial copying that does not constitute actionable infringement  – will cheer some parts of the music industry – particularly those involved in the creation of music in the rap and hip hop genres – and was said by some to be a knockback for sample ‘trolls’ who spend their time looking for unauthorised samples – and settlements.


TufAmerica, Inc. v WB Music Corp., et al . Case 1.13 cv 07874 – LAK

https://gigaom.com/2014/12/09/jay-z-crushes-sample-troll-who-claimed-copyright-in-word-oh/ and http://ipkitten.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/the-story-of-oh-successful-sample-for.html

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