Are the likes of Jay-Z, Robin Thicke and the Beastie Boys rip-off artists who steal others’ copyright? Or is something else going on? A new lawsuit shows the surging problem of “sample trolls.”

Jay-Z Run this Town
photo: Jay-Z via YouTube

A sample troll is stalking Jay-Z over Run This Town, claiming the rapper’s 2009 hit from Blueprint 3 uses sounds from a 1969 track called Hook and Sling by the late pianist Eddie Bo.

A lawsuit, filed in New York federal court, claims that Run this Town uses sounds from Hook and Sling dozens of times, and asks for profits from Jay-Z and his record labels, and an order prohibiting the rapper from distributing the song.

So who exactly filed the lawsuit? Good question. The plaintiff is a company called TufAmerica, which is the same classy outfit that sued the Beastie Boys last year on the same day that one member of the trio, MCA, passed away.

As the New York Times explained, Tuf America “has made a business out of buying the rights to old songs and suing artists who sample them without permission.” A similar type of company is responsible for the highly-publicized lawsuit over Robin Thicke’s summer hit Blurred Lines.

In the bigger pictures, the cases represent a resurgence of the legal forces that chill artistic expression and that almost smothered hip-hop in the 1990’s. As scholars have noted, the cost of clearing sample would make it near impossible today for groups like the Beastie Boys to make sample-based masterpieces like 1989’s Paul’s Boutique.

The new lawsuit (below) may also trigger a debate over whether musicians like Jay-Z aka Shawn Carter are “stealing.” You can decide for yourself; here’s the two songs — and keep in mind any profits from this lawsuit are likely to trickle to investors and lawyers rather than musicians or Eddie Bo’s heirs.

Here’s Jay-Z performing Run this Town with Kanye West and Rhianna:

And here’s Eddie Bo playing Hook and Sling:

Tuf America v Jay-Z

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  1. Good its a pathetic sample sounds like a dying duck

  2. Does not sound much like it I would never guess the two where related another vanilla ice lawsuit but times are hard so the saying is “when times are hard just sue someone”

  3. Heard that whole Hook and Sling song. If the courts has ears like i do, this isn’t a case worth the time. I’m all for artists in music, video, photo, painting, etc. getting compensated and recognition for their works, but I cannot hear similarities between the two songs.

  4. If you’re in the song business, and you take part of someone’s song, and add it to yours… don’t be surprised when this happens.

    Frankly, this publication’s bias toward copyright infringement and patent infringement is really questionable at times. Come on guys!

  5. Sounds a lot more like the song “Express Yourself” circa 1970 infringed on the original.

  6. isn’t it possible that you are looking at this from the wrong perspective?

    just because an entity has gone around buying rights with the intent to benefit financially from enforcing same doesn’t make them a troll per se. if their claims are valid what does it matter who the current owner of those rights are? if in fact the claims prove valid then perhaps it’s jay z and others who have unjustly enriched themselves on the IP of others. if someone like TufAmerica (regardless of what you think of them) hadn’t the means to aggregate and pursue such claims, how many creators would have to silently suffer the unlawful appropriation of their work?

  7. Don’t hear any similarities at all. How about some times on the two recordings we can compare? So far smells to me like small time gritfters trying to make a buck

  8. to @jsosko and @dlamrac “patent trolls” as the article says are a detriment to innovation.
    A point in favor of this being a big greedy scheme is that while intellectual property is valuable, more value is added then taken away by some creative producer deciding to take a part of that old song and make it into something that it never would have been without him. And he or she never would have been able to experiment with it if it was so expensive to use in the first place.
    These Tuf America people who have done nothing creative, but are piggybacking off the work of people who actually make things and saying they deserve royalties.
    If the original artist and their estate had no problem with it, then I think creative freedom trumps profit.

  9. They sound nothing alike

  10. The best thing for any business, like Carter is to make himself and his trademarks
    judgment proof with foreign holding companies and debt so he can ignore these trolls.
    Let them get all the judgements they want, but good luck collecting a dime. After a while
    they will just go away because the ROI with be zero.. No one should be able to sue for
    copyright unless they actually add value to the copyright..

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