Saturday, April 9, 2011

Czar's Sample Post of the Week: "Put you On the Game"

No, this isn't a sample of the week; just commentary on some recent news involving a Timbo sample.

Over the past couple of weeks, people have flooded my inbox asking me feelings on the recent news of an appellate court dismissing a lawsuit filed against Timbaland (along with The Game, Interscope, Aftermath, and G-Unit) for sampling "Baghon Mein Bahar Hai" for The Game's "Put you on the Game" without getting permission from major Indian production company, Saregama India LTD (a case we told you about here and a sample featured on my sample mix Vol. 7). I told them that I wouldn't have any thoughts on it until I read the court documents. Well, I've finally read the court's decision, and thought I'd share my feelings with the Chronicles fam.

For those who don't know, in order to win a copyright infringement lawsuit (here, it's sampling without permission), you have to do two things: 1) Prove that you are the rightful copyright holder; and 2) Show that someone or a group of people violated the copyright. So, in order to prove #1, Saregama pointed to an agreement they had with Shakti Films, where Shakti transferred copyright to Saregama for all recorded music. Now, since "Baghon Mein Bahar Hai" came from a Bollywood film produced by Shakti, Saregama told the court that, due to their agreement, Saregama holds the copyright. But, as the court documents reveal, this agreement was to only last between January 1967 to January 1969. Since "Baghon Mein Bahar Hai" came out in September of 1969, this was after the agreement. Consequently, Saregama isn't the rightful copyright holder of "Baghon Mein Bahar Hai," and cannot file a lawsuit against Timbaland. Check the summary of the court's decision here:

The funny part to me is that because Saregama couldn't prove #1, the court didn't even have to rule on #2, which is whether Tim actually sampled the "Baghon Mein Bahar Hai."

So what does all this mean? Well, I asked a good friend of mine, Wayne Marshall, who's also a DJ, music scholar, and constantly gets called to court as an expert on music and copyright (check out his blog, Here's what he said:

Funny to see Saregama overreach like this. That may mean we see a lot less litigation of this sort, since they're the major major, though it depends on how commonplace a limited agreement like this was. Was it really "unique"? If so, I wonder why.

To me, this is the whole result of this case: it leaves more questions than answers. Sure, because Tim won against a major Indian production company, this could mean that he can go back to sampling Bollywood tracks without worrying about a lawsuit, but let's be real here. The case was dismissed only because of this limited agreement between Saregama and Shakti Films, an agreement that could have hurt Tim's bank account if "Baghon Mein Bahar Hai" came out in January of 1969 instead of September 1969. If these limited agreements were common, then Tim might have more wiggle room to sample, but if this was just a one-time thing, then it will still be difficult for Tim to freely sample Bollywood. Also, Shakti Films, if it still exists and if it doesn't whoever owns the rights to the estate, can still sue Timbaland. The court ruled in favor of Timbaland because the wrong party sued. Someone can definitely refile as the rightful copyright owner, and this wouldn't be anything new to Tim since someone claiming to own the rights to "Koshara" recently reopened the "Big Pimpin'" copyright infringement lawsuit against Timbaland. Only time will tell what happens next, but for now, Tim must be feeling pretty good.

P.S. For those who are music/copyright/all things Timbo nerds, you can read the full court opinion HERE

No comments :

Post a Comment

free html hit counter
What number are you?