Featureflash /
18 September 2014Copyright

Jay Z hits back in one syllable copyright lawsuit

US rap artist Jay Z has hit back in a lawsuit which accused him of copyright infringement for illegally sampling a one-syllable word.

The rapper’s lawyers have asked a court to dismiss the lawsuit, which accuses Jay Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, of illegally using the word ‘oh’ in his 2009 song Run This Town.

The lawsuit arose in November last year, when record label TufAmerica filed a complaint at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that the song illegally sampled singer Eddie Bo’s song Hook & Sling, released in the 1990s.

But the rapper has filed a motion to dismiss the case at the same court, accusing the plaintiff of asserting a “fleeting and generic” phrase.

“The plaintiff 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,” the motion said.

“Even if one short word—or the recording thereof—could possibly be deemed original enough to warrant copyright protection, this fleeting and generic phrase is neither quantitatively nor qualitatively significant,” it added.

The motion, obtained by news website  Techdirt, went on to claim that even if the "oh" in question was linked to the Eddie Bo song, it still wouldn't be enough of a sample to warrant copyright protection.

The case could have a major impact on future sampling cases.

In recent years, artists in the US have been bound by a US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit decision on copyright and sampling.

The judges in the case, Bridgeport Music v Dimension Films, ruled that a two-second sample, consisting of one arpeggiated chord, meant that hip hop group NWA’s tracks 100 Miles and Runnin’ infringed US band Funkadelic’s song Get Off Your Ass and Jam.

Coincidentally, Run This Town was the focus of another controversy this week when broadcaster CBS pulled it from its Thursday Night Football show in light of the domestic violence scandal surrounding professional footballer Ray Rice.

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