Snoop Dogg sued by jazz great for sampling

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Snoop Dogg sued by jazz great for sampling

Wed Jul 07, 2010 @ 10:13AM PST

Snoop-dogg By Eriq Gardner

EXCLUSIVE: It's been more than 30 years since the birth of hip-hop, and in that time, one axiom holds true: If the ride is more fly, then you must buy.

We're quoting Snoop Dogg, who allegedly didn't buy.

So says Michael Henderson, one of the most influential jazz musicians of the past 40 years. Henderson played bass guitar and sang and, along with bandmate Miles Davis, he put a funky groove in a genre of music called fusion jazz.

Now, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday in Michigan, Snoop Dogg took a sample from Henderson's "Do It All" album and incorporated it into his own works without permission. Snoop Dogg isn't alone. In a separate lawsuit, Henderson also targets rappers Nick Carter (aka "Murs") and Patrick Douthit (aka "9th Wonder") for doing the same.

These rappers are now embroiled in a debate as old as hip-hop: Is sampling legal?

For the most part it is. In the late 1980s and early '90s, though, some courts started frowning on excessive sampling. In cases such as Grand Upright v. Warner, judges began to see flagrant uses of sampling as copyright infringement.

Some legal experts argue that sampling might be a "fair use" depending on how much is used and for what purpose. They believe that courts should recognize a "de minimis" standard for insignificant use of a copyrighted work. 

However, some judges haven't abided by that standard. Of particular note, a three-judge panel at the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision in 2005 in Bridgeport v. Dimension Films, saying that musicians should pay for samples — even unrecognizable snippets.

It's probably not a coincidence now Henderson is now targeting a pair of prominent musicians in that same jurisdiction. He claims the defendants had actual knowledge that they didn't have permission but decided to take full credit for the work.

Henderson is targeting the Snoop track "Flashbacks," as well as a song Snoop created with the group Warzone entitled "Hands on the Wheel," which is posted below. He's also claiming an infringing use in "3:16 pt. 2" by Murs and 9th Wonder.

Henderson is claiming statutory damages for the alleged infringement as well as any profits made from the songs. He's asking the court to enjoin the defendants from manufacturing, distributing and selling the works further. Here's the complaint.

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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