Greenberg Glusker Partner Glen Rothstein was quoted in an article that ran in The Daily Journal on October 19th regarding notes and expert testimony in the “Big Pimpin’ trial.”
Rap superstar Jay Z and music producer Timbaland testified in a federal courtroom in Los Angeles last week, defending their creation of the 1999 hit "Big Pimpin'" in a copyright infringement case filed by the heir of an Egyptian composer. At issue are the notes of flute music created by composer Baligh Hamdi for the 1957 ballad "Khosara Khosara," which both artists contend they have the proper rights to use.
Defense counsel called musicologist Lawrence Ferrara, a professor of music at New York University who specializes in music theory and analysis, and according to the article, has served as an expert in copyright cases for Billy Joel, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen, as well as rappers such as Eminem and Kanye West. Four measures of "Khosara, Khosara" were used as a sample in "Big Pimpin'", and Ferrara commented the popular song shares minimal and fragmentary notes with the sample.
Plaintiff's counsel began cross-examination of Ferrara by calling into question his limited experience with Arabic, and specifically Egyptian music.
According to Rothstein, who is not involved in the case: "One of the ways that you lessen the impact of an expert witness' testimony is by portraying that witness as essentially a non-expert and trying to convince the jury that this person is just a hired gun being paid to say what the client wants them to say versus a pedigreed third-party expert."
He further noted, "The testimony of a musicologist can really make or break a case in front of a jury because it allows somebody who is an expert in the field to explain complex issues of copyright law in layman's terms.”
The trial is to continue on Tuesday.