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Jay-Z Gets Single-Syllable Sample Lawsuit Dismissed

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on December 10, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A lawsuit that accused rapper Jay-Z of unlawfully sampling a single syllable from an obscure funk record was dismissed in federal court on Monday.

The lawsuit was filed by record company TufAmerica, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The company holds the copyright for the 1969 recording of "Hook and Sling - Part I" by Eddie Bo. In its lawsuit, TufAmerica alleges that Jay-Z had unlawfully sampled an instance of Eddie Bo saying "Oh" from "Hook and Sling - Part I" 42 times in the background of the rapper's 2009 Grammy-winning single "Run This Town," which also featured Kanye West and Rihanna.

What did the judge have to say about the lawsuit?

Samples 'Barely Perceptible'

In ruling on Jay-Z's motion to dismiss the complaint, federal Judge Lewis A. Kaplan did not dispute that Jay-Z made use of the "Oh" from Eddie Bo's original master, but found that the use of the single syllable lacked the significance required under copyright law.

Furthermore, the ruling stated that "the relevant works bear no substantial similarity to one another," making it "impermissible to conclude that defendants are liable in this case." Generally, a copyright infringement lawsuit must prove that a substantial similarity exists between the infringing work and the protectable elements of the infringed work. In this case, however, the judge found that TufAmerica "improperly conflates factual copying and actionable copying."

Previous Lawsuits

TufAmerica has been involved in several similar lawsuits regarding samples of copyrighted music used in hip hop songs. In fact, Kanye West was sued in 2012 for using the same sample at issue in the lawsuit against Jay-Z, reports The Huffington Post.

TufAmerica also filed suit against the Beastie Boys in 2012, alleging the group illegally sampled copyrighted music on the 1986 album "License to Ill" and the 1989 album "Paul's Boutique." That claim was dismissed in part last year.

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