Jay Z Fights Back Copyright Suit Over Sampling of ‘Oh’ in “Run This Town”

Jay Z filed a motion to dismiss a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by Record label TufAmerica before a New York federal district court.  The suit alleged that Jay Z and Rihanna’s hit song “Run This Town” sampled the Eddie Bo song “Hook & Sling” without authorization.

According to the filing, Jay Z allegedly misappropriated ‘oh’ sound from “Hook & Sling” throughout “Run This Town.”  In filing the motion to dismiss, Jay Z’s legal team argued that the claim was “misguided” as it was not applicable to copyright laws since the sample used was de minimis.  Since TufAmerica does not have a monopoly over the use of the word ‘oh’ and the Copyright Act does not protect short phrases, Jay Z’s attorneys argued that TufAmerica’s claim should be dismissed as a matter of law.

The motion also argued that Jay Z’s position is further supported by the recent New York district court decision in TufAmerica v. Diamond.  There, TufAmerica sued the Beastie Boys for illegally sampling in several of their songs the phrase “Now I want y’all to break this down” from the band Trouble Funk.  The Diamond court dismissed the infringement claims because “such alleged infringements were quantitatively and qualitatively insignificant as a matter of law.”

Although the court here is likely to follow the Diamond precedent, it will still be interesting to see how the court would address Jay Z’s de minimis argument when the Sixth Circuit previously found in Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films that a two-second sample of a guitar solo was not de minimis.  In fact, the court there concluded “[e]ven when a small part of a sound recording is sampled, the part taken is something of value.”  Further, it held that one should “[g]et a license or [] not sample” as it d[id] not “see this as stifling creativity in any significant way.”

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