Jay Z, Timbaland to Testify in Court Over 'Big Pimpin'' Sample

Lawsuit questions legality of flute hook in 2000 hit

Timbaland and Jay Z will testify in court over the use of a sample in "Big Pimpin'." Credit: Roger Kisby/Getty; Mat Hayward/FilmMagic/Getty

Jay Z and Timbaland will appear in court to testify about using the sample of a flute line by composer Baligh Hamdi as the hook in the 2000 hit "Big Pimpin'." The nephew of the composer, who died in 1993, filed the suit in 2007, calling into question the way moral rights in Egypt are handled in the U.S. The trial will begin on October 13th, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

When Timbaland first found the sample, which culls from a song in the 1960 Egyptian film Fata ahlami titled "Khosara, Khosara," he believed it was in the public domain. Upon learning it was not, he paid $100,000 to EMI, which claimed to own the rights to the sample, to end any further claims.

Fahmy later filed his suit in a California federal court, though, against the rapper and producer, EMI and Universal Music, as well as Paramount Pictures and MTV over films and specials that used the song. Court documents show that Hamdi's heirs received a "lump-sum buyout," according to THR. The defendants claim that Fahmy "gave up exclusive control of all rights in 'Khosara'" in the U.S. with an agreement made in 2002.

Lawyers for Fahmy claim, though, that the agreement does not take into account the way licensing contracts are administered with respect to moral rights – the rules that govern how a copyrighted work can be altered, with respect to the creator – in Egyptian law. Their paperwork claims that Jay Z and Timbaland's agreement did not convey "expressly and in detail" all of the ways in which "Khosara, Khosara" would be used, including where it could be used, the reason it would be used and when it would be played. It also alleged that the agreement did not allow for the song to be modified in any way.

The defendants' lawyers fired back by saying that Fahmy has been "complaining...that under Egyptian law, authors and their heirs can always refuse to permit use of a composition in manners deemed to be 'objectionable,' regardless of whether they previously gave up all of their economic rights." Moreover, they claim the Court previously declared that Egyptian moral rights could not be applied in the U.S.

Jay Z has already given a deposition and said that he would be providing the court with a Live Nation touring business plan, his own royalty statements and an agreement with his Roc-A-Fella Records.

The Hollywood Reporter speculates that the trial will begin by determining which agreements are valid. It could also determine when and how the sample could be modified and where it could be performed.

Fahmy's lawyers have called the musicologist who testified on behalf of Marvin Gaye's family in the "Blurred Lines" lawsuit as a witness, as well as a "marketing expert" who claims to have polled Jay Z concertgoers on whether or not they were expecting to hear "Big Pimpin'" at the show, among others. "The notion that people buy concert tickets to [Jay Z's] concerts to hear one song —never mind an instrumental sample contained in one song that may or may not be played — is patently absurd," the defendants wrote in a brief.

In other Jay Z news, the rapper recently announced that he will be co-executive producing a six-hour HBO miniseries exploring the 1955 murder of teenager Emmett Till, whose story helped kickstart the civil rights movement. The rapper has also been working hard to keep his music streaming service, Tidal, in the public eye as executive turnover and its dwindling popularity in the Apple app store have garnered as many headlines as its exclusives and celebrity owners.