Judge throws out case brought by TufAmerica label after having trouble discerning the one-syllable sample
Jay Z has emerged victorious from a court battle over the use of the word oh. A Manhattan court has dismissed a lawsuit that the rapper’s 2009 single Run This Town violated copyright by sampling a single syllable from Eddie Bo’s 1969 funk track, Hook and Sling.
“The word in question - oh - is quite common ... [and] it appears only once [in Run This Town], if it appears at all,” Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled. “The relevant works bear no substantial similarity to one another ... It would be impermissible to conclude that defendants are liable in this case.”
The lawsuit against Jay Z was brought by TufAmerica, a label that acquired the rights to Hook and Sling in 1996. The company has filed similar claims against artists including Kanye West and Beastie Boys; all were denied by the defendants.
TufAmerica “apparently believes that it has a monopoly on the use of the word oh and that it can stop others from using this word in recorded form,” Jay Z’s lawyers argued in their response to the suit. “Even if one short word ... could possibly be deemed original enough to warrant copyright protection, this fleeting and generic phrase is neither quantitatively nor qualitatively significant.”
United States federal court apparently agreed, particularly because Kaplan struggled to make out the offending oh. “The Court has listened to the audio of the accused works a number of times without once discerning the alleged sample,” Kaplan stated in November. “[TufAmerica] should be prepared to demonstrate its presence in appropriate, perceptible ways.”
Run This Town, which also featured performances by West and Rihanna, reached No 1 in the UK and won awards for best rap song and best rap/sung collaboration at the 2010 Grammys.
This article was written by Sean Michaels, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 10th December 2014 11.21 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010