Jonathan Steinsapir was quoted by the Daily Journal in Ashley Cullins’ piece on the copyright infringement lawsuit against hip-hop artists Jay-Z and Timbaland. Filed by the heir of an Egyptian composer, the complaint claims that the use of the song “Khosara, Khosara” in Jay-Z’s 1999 hit “Big Pimpin’” was not authorized, and that the record company that licensed the song to Timbaland never had the right to do so in the first place.
One of the longest-running active lawsuits in the country, the case has more than its fair share of complications, including a foreign copyright law and the question of whether the defendants acted outside the scope of their license by altering the sampled song. While Jon says that most cases usually settle when each side understands what the risks and rewards are, the number of wildcards in this dispute makes it particularly convoluted.
Additionally, the plaintiff’s aggressive damages model asks the court to not only consider revenues from song and album sales, but also from touring and merchandise. According to Jon, because the copyright act grants profits attributable to the infringement, the case could define what the outer limits to the act are, and could “really change the calculations of the risks in a copyright lawsuit if some of these more aggressive damages theories did take.”
If there is one certainty in the lawsuit, it is that its quirks reflect the increasingly complex nature of copyright cases.
“We’re looking at copyrights that can last into the third generation,” Jon said. “The relationship between creator and the person who is enforcing it is getting more and more attenuated.”