Jay Z and Timbaland sued for using sample in 1999 song ‘Big Pimpin’

From 1999's 'Big Pimpin'' / Photo source: Youtube screenshot
From 1999’s ‘Big Pimpin” / Photo source: Youtube screenshot

Jay Z’s copyright troubles over his 16-year-old song “Big Pimpin'” are resurfacing to haunt him. A music composer’s nephew is suing the entertainment mogul and the song’s producer, Timbaland, over copyright claims regarding a flute sample.

The Arabian-sounding flute in question is heard within the beat throughout the 1999 song about having casual sex with women and discarding them. The rap hit, which featured UGK, was on Jay Z’s fourth album, Vol 3…Life And Times of S. Carter.


Timbaland has said that he found the flute sound he used to produce the song on a CD without any identification, so he figured it was in the public domain, according to Daily Mail. But it turns out the sample was composed by Baligh Hamdy in 1957 for an Egyptian movie, Khosara, Khosara.

After it was discovered where the sample derived, Jay Z’s camp payed $100,000 to EMI Arabia, the label that was believed to have rights over the film. The label gave part of that payment to Hamdy’s family, as the composer had died in 1993.


But Hamdy’s nephew and heir, Osama Ahmed Fahmy, filed a lawsuit in 2007 in U.S. court claiming the deal was not recognized under Egyptian law. His lawsuit states that Khosara, Khosara is regarded as important to Egyptian culture and that at the time of the deal, the country’s law did not allow for a “blanket license to make derivative works that alter or add to the copyright.”

“At the very least, regardless of the scope of the copyright license, the author is required to consent on a case-by-case basis to any alteration of his work,” the suit says.

Fahmy’s lawyers say their client is seeking payment from both Jay Z, who is worth about $560 million, and Timbaland, who is worth around $80 million. The attorneys say they are prepared to bring in experts to evaluate the amount of money “Big Pimpin'” has made from the flute sample.

Jay Z’s lawyers are rejecting the validity of the argument.

“The notion that people buy concert tickets to hear one song, never mind an instrumental sample contained in one song that may or may not be performed at any given concert, is beyond speculative — it is farcical,” said a court motion from the defense.

The jury trial is set for Oct. 13 in Los Angeles.

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