Jay Z to Testify in Absurdly Complicated Lawsuit About the ‘Big Pimpin’ Hook

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Jay Z. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Jay Z, no stranger to legal complications, is about to hopefully get some resolution on one of his longest-running cases. In October, he's scheduled to take the stand in the trial to settle a copyright claim against the instrumental hook in "Big Pimpin'" — a song that came out 15 years ago. The lawsuit dates from producer Timbaland's use of a snippet from late Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi's "Khosara, Khosara," which he paid  $100,000 to license from EMI Arabia. But in a twist that has made this one of the longest currently active lawsuits in the United States, it turns out EMI Arabia itself was licensing the composition from the Egyptian record label Sout el Phan. That deal expired in 2006, and a year later, Hamdi's nephew Osama Ahmed Fahmy sued over the sample, arguing that EMI didn't have the right to let Timbaland license the song without his permission. Other aspects of Fahmy's arguments have drawn on the idea of "moral rights" — the idea that Jay and Timbaland "mutilated" his uncle's work — while Jay's lawyers argue that Hamdi signed over his rights to the composition in 2002, when he received a payment from Sout el Phan.

But that's just the beginning. According to THR, the trial could also hinge on "figuring out what expression in 'Khosara, Khosara' is original enough to be copyrighted, whether rights were forfeited by general publication, whether the use of a sample was de minimus copying or fair use, whether there was any willfulness in the copying, and whether Fahmy waited too long to make a challenge over 'Big Pimpin'." Fahmy has called a variety of experts to testify for his cause, including the musicologist who helped the Gaye family win the "Blurred Lines" lawsuit, a marketer who has examined what percentage of Jay Z concertgoers expect to hear "Big Pimpin'," and a music reporter who will talk about how the song helped Jay's career. Jay will be joined on the stand by Timbaland, where he is expected to explain, "I part with nothing, y'all be fronting."