Notorious B.I.G.'s Estate Suing Over Claims of Illegal Sampling
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 04.01.2014
It's a pre-emptive defensive strike...
The family of Notorious B.I.G. are filing a pre-emptive lawsuit against a claim that the late rapper infringed on copyright in one of his songs. Billboard has the news, reporting that the estate is filing suit looking for declaratory relief that the track "The What" off of his album Ready to Die isn't infringing on the song "Can't Say Enough About Mom," which was sampled for the track.
While there is no question--and the estate admits--that the song is used in the Biggie track, they claim that the sample falls under fair use and de minimis categorization as only "two nonsequential tones" were used, adapted, modified and supplemented. The suit argues that the suit is "untimely" as well considering the amount of years that it has been, and that Leroy Hutson, who co-wrote the song with Michael Hawkins, is misusing copyright by "threatening legal action with alleged knowledge of no real infringement."
The original song was published in 1974 by a record company owned by Curtis Mayfield and reverted back to Hutson in 1989. "The What" was written in 1994 by Biggie, Easy Mo Bee and Method Man. "The What" samples the final 1.9 seconds of the song, which is essentially a "wah-wah" sound which that moves between high and low frequencies. It was altered for use in the Biggie track and in 2012, Bad Boy was sent notice of an alleged infringement.
The two sides have been negotiating, though Hutson's reps have reportedly claimed 50% ownership in the Biggie song and that includes income attributable to the song.