Cypress Hill Emerges Victorious In $29 Million Lawsuit Over Sample Clearance
Soul music legend Syl Johnson lost a round in court this week, when a long-running lawsuit against rap group Cypress Hill was officially dismissed.
Syl Johnson sued Cypress Hill in 2003 for copyright infringement, claiming the group illegally sampled his song "It it Because I'm Black," which was featured on the track "Interlude" on the group's hit album Black Sunday.
Cypress Hill originally won a judgment for lawyer fees and court costs in 2008, after a judge ruled that Syl Johnson's original recording was not protected under law, because it was recorded three years before the Federal Copyright Act was passed in 1972.
Johnson appealed the original 2008 judgment in favor of Cypress Hill, but the appeal was dismissed on Wednesday (June 1st).
Syl Johnson recorded "Is It Because I'm Black in 1968 and in 1969 his record label, Twinight Records released a version of the song on 45 RPM.
In 1972, Johnson re-recorded the song, but it was never released in the United States.
Johnson didn't apply for copyright registration for the re-recording until 1997, when he realized it wasn't being protected by a valid Federal copyright.