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NPR Arts & Life

'Big Pimpin' Is No Longer Big Litigatin': Suit Against Jay Z Dismissed

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This next story is about a flute riff.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BIG PIMPIN'")

JAY Z: It's big pimping, Baby.

CORNISH: The flute riff in the hit 2000 single "Big Pimpin'." Years later, it was the center of a lawsuit filed against Jay-Z and his producer Timbaland, AKA Shawn Carter and Timothy Mosley, respectively. And that case wrapped up this week.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The flute riff comes from an Egyptian song called "Khosara Khosara."

(SOUNDBITE OF BALIGH HAMDY SONG, "KHOSARA KHOSARA")

SHAPIRO: It was composed in the 1950s by the late Baligh Hamdy.

(SOUNDBITE OF BALIGH HAMDY SONG, "KHOSARA KHOSARA")

CORNISH: Now Mr. Hamdy's nephew, Osama Ahmed Fahmy, wasn't too happy to hear it featured in a song called "Big Pimpin'."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BIG PIMPIN'")

JAY Z: (Rapping) We doin' big pimpin'. We spending cheese. Check 'em out now. Big pimpin'.

AUSTIN SIEGEMUND-BROKA: There were objections to what the plaintiff considered vulgar content that mutilated his uncle's song and was layered and added to a video with, you know, Jay Z's characteristic fare of scantily clad girls and drug deals.

CORNISH: Austin Siegemund-Broka has been following the case for The Hollywood Reporter.

SHAPIRO: And he says Fahmy's lawsuit hinged on an Egyptian legal concept known as moral right.

SIEGEMUND-BROKA: In Egypt, they're the inalienable right of any creator of a work to contest a derivative work in court.

SHAPIRO: So even though Jay Z and Timbaland had paid $100,000 to the music label that owns the legal rights to the Egyptian song, Fahmy claimed that he still had moral rights and deserved to be paid.

SIEGEMUND-BROKA: What the case eventually came down to was whether this Egyptian concept of moral rights could apply to a contract struck between EMI Music Publishing and Jay Z and his producer, Timbaland, in the United States.

CORNISH: Yesterday, a U.S. district court judge in California said it doesn't. It was an Egyptian law and doesn't apply in the U.S. - case dismissed.

SHAPIRO: So this whole story is just an excuse for me to say Jay Z has 99 problems, but this lawsuit ain't one.

(SOUNDBITE OF BALIGH HAMDY SONG, "KHOSARA KHOSARA")

CORNISH: Now, maybe there are other problems of Jay Z's that we missed. We want you to let us know online. You can chat with us on social networks at our website npr.org and certainly me on Twitter @NPRAudie.

SHAPIRO: I'm on Twitter @AriShapiro. On Twitter, you won't be able to see us rocking out to Drake as we were just a moment ago. But who knows? Next time we're doing that, maybe we'll Periscope live from the studio. What do you say, Audie?

CORNISH: One can only hope. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.