Judge Rules That Egyptian Moral Rights Don't Provide Standing In Tangled Lawsuit Over Jay-Z's Big Pimpin'
from the i-don't-fucking-need-'em dept
For a while now, Jay-Z has been engaged in one of the more bizarre copyright(ish) cases around, concerning his classic song “Big Pimpin'”. The musical hook to that tune — everyone agrees — was from the song “Khosara, Khosara.” But this isn’t a typical copyright case because the song was licensed to Jay-Z back in 1995. So, there shouldn’t be any issue, right? Except that the nephew of the composer of the song claims that the song still violates his uncle’s moral rights. Moral rights, as we’ve discussed for years, are a fairly common concept outside the US, but mostly not valid inside the US (there is a small exception for certain kinds of “visual” arts, which the US put in place solely to pretend it respects the moral rights requirements of the Berne Convention). Nonetheless, Osama Ahmed Fahmy was surprisingly successful in moving forward with a US-based lawsuit against Jay-Z, on behalf of his uncle, the composer Baligh Hamdy.
Fahmy (and other Hamdy relatives) apparently felt offended by what Jay-Z did with the song, which is the classic case for the reason for moral rights (to stop someone, say, for using your song or painting to support the Nazis or whatever). And while it seemed like it should be a simple thing just to have the case thrown out because the US doesn’t recognize moral rights in music, the case still went forward, with Jay-Z even having to testify. Finally, after all that, the judge announced that Fahmy did not have standing to sue Jay-Z. As for why the case even went this far, the judge, Christina Snyder, said she needed to hear from Egyptian law experts first.
Either way, Fahmy’s lawyers have made it clear they’re going to appeal the case, so it’s not over yet, but it seems difficult to see how the case will stand up. A clear license to use the music was granted, throwing in these additional moral rights just seems like yet another example of copyright overreach — but one that the court has, thankfully, rejected.