The panel affirmed the district court’s grant of judgment as a matter of law in favor of rapper Jay-Z and other defendants on copyright infringement claims brought by the heir to Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdy’s copyright in a 1957 arrangement of the song Khosara.
Jay-Z used a sample from the arrangement in the background music to his hit single Big Pimpin’.
The district court held that the heir, Osama Ahmed Fahmy, lacked standing to bring the copyright claims. First, the district court held that Egyptian law recognizes a transferable right of “adaptation,” such that when Fahmy transferred “all” of his economic rights to Mohsen Mohammed Jaber in a 2002 agreement, the transfer included the right to create derivative works adapted from Khosara. The district court concluded that the right of adaptation is an economic right under Egyptian law, not an inalienable moral right. Second, the district court held that the conveyance of rights contained in the 2002 agreement complied with the requirements of Article 149, the Egyptian law governing the transfer of economic rights. Accordingly, the 2002 agreement successfully conveyed a right of adaptation of Khosara to Jaber. Third, a reservation of rights found at the end of the 2002 agreement referred to the right to receive royalties, and thus did not confer standing on Fahmy to bring a claim of copyright infringement.
Affirming, the panel concluded (1) that Egyptian law recognizes a transferable economic right to prepare derivative works; (2) that the moral rights Fahmy retained by operation of Egyptian law were not enforceable in U.S. federal court; and (3) that, even if they were, Fahmy had not complied with the compensation requirement of Egyptian law, which did not provide for his requested money damages, and which provided for only injunctive relief from an Egyptian court. The panel held that the district court properly interpreted the 2002 agreement as conveying to Jaber the economic right to create derivative works. In addition, the fact that Fahmy retained the right to royalties did not give him standing to sue for copyright infringement.
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