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Jay-Z and Timbaland successfully dispute sample lawsuit from soul singer Ernie Hines

By | Published on Monday 20 April 2020


The uncleared sample lawsuit filed by soul singer Ernie Hines against Jay-Z and Timbaland last year has been dismissed, partly for administrative reasons and partly due to a lack of information in the original legal filing.

In a lawsuit filed last May, Hines accused Jay-Z and Timbaland of sampling his 1970 track ‘Help Me Put Out The Flame (In My Heart)’ on the 1998 Jay-Z record ‘Paper Chase’. Timbaland was also accused of using the same uncleared sample on another track a year later, Ginuwine’s ‘Toe 2 Toe’.

When suing the two artists and their record labels last year, Hines said it had taken him two decades to go legal because he has no interest in rap music and therefore had only heard ‘Paper Chase’ and ‘Toe 2 Toe’ in 2018.

He also claimed that Jay-Z’s own Tidal streaming service, in notes accompanying ‘Paper Chase’, said that the track sampled ‘Help Me’. Thus, he reckoned, proving that the rapper had knowingly infringed his work.

Jay-Z, Timbaland and their respective labels all sort of have the case dismissed, though on different grounds. The artists raised administrative issues with Hines’ litigation, reckoning that he had failed to serve them with legal papers in a sufficiently timely manner.

The labels, meanwhile, picked holes in the actual legal complaint. They said that Hines’ lawsuit didn’t explain in detail which elements of his track had been sampled or where said samples specifically appeared in ‘Paper Chase’ and ‘Toe 2 Toe’. Such detail was required to pursue a copyright infringement claim, they argued.

The judge last week concurred with both the artists and the labels. On the labels argument, he noted legal precedent that says that “a plaintiff must ‘specify which aspects of the [offending work] allegedly infringed plaintiff’s [work]”, adding that “the failure to do so is ‘fatal’ because the plaintiff ‘has the burden of identifying with some degree of specificity how [the defendant’s] works are substantially similar to [their] own”.

Although dismissing Hines’ case, the judge did say the singer could resubmit an amended lawsuit, albeit “conditional on the payment of the costs and attorney’s fees incurred by the record label defendants in filing and defending their motions to dismiss”.