MUSIC 101: The Double-sided Danger of Sampling

Last week, news broke that The Potter’s House pastor, Bishop T. D. Jakes, is seeking legal action against rapper Young Jeezy.  Jakes caught wind of Jeezy’s remix to his song “”Holy Ghost,” which features Kendrick Lamar. “Holy Ghost” is featured on his latest album Seen It All: The Autobiography, but the remixed version is not.  On the remix, an exert of Jakes sermon Don’t Let the Chatter Stop was used at the beginning.

“I’m under attack, but I’m still on fire. I’ve got some chatter, I’ve got some threat, I’ve got some liabilities but I’m still on fire. It’s not amazing that I’m on fire. I’ve been to hell and back, but I’m still on fire.”

Jakes insists that Jeezy, CTE World, Def Jam or anyone else affiliated with the song did NOT receive his authorization to use the sample. He confirmed this via a public notice posted on his Facebook page which read:

SPECIAL NOTICE: The ‘Holy Ghost’ remix by Jeezy featuring Kendrick Lamar was produced without the knowledge or consent of T.D. Jakes, TDJ Enterprises, Dexterity Music or its associated companies. We are taking the necessary legal actions to stop the unauthorized use of T.D. Jakes’ intellectual property.




So, what’s the real issue?? The problem is that Jakes is a beloved pastor  that does not want to be associated with a rapper who glamorizes things that goes against the Christian faith. In “Holy Ghost,” Jeezy references alcohol, sex, and other things he does in the back of his “ghost”.

Jakes is obviously upset that a theft of his intellectual property was made. Although he feels that taking legal action is suitable, Jakes team may have spoken prematurely on Facebook. The laws on copyrights are intricate and, sometimes, can prove to benefit the defendant in court and not the plaintiff. Here’s why:

DANGER #1:  Fair Use – In the 1994 ruling on 2 Live Crew’s sample of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman,” the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Miami group. According to Guardian Liberty Voice, the court agreed unanimously with the rap group and said that they were within their rights to use some of the song because it was considered fair use. Los Angeles attorney, Jonathan Kirsch, says copying a small portion of another’s work to establish a point, in most cases, is legal. Kirsch also adds that “the notion of taking a cultural artifact, like a sermon, and using a small portion to make a comment on the role of religion in people’s consciousness is very similar.”

Regrettably, T.D. Jakes may not have a real foot to stand on in court. Is he willing to put the money up to take his case ALL the way to the Supreme Court? My belief is that neither party will want to invest in that type of time and money into this lawsuit. If anything, Jeezy and his people may settle if things aren’t looking favorable on his side. What will this mean, monetarily, for CTE World and Def Jam? Here’s the other-side of the “what-if” that could make a larger impact on Jeezy’s record sales and royalties.

DANGER #2:  The financial dangers of sampling someone’s intellectual property can be as great as a loss of 100% of the song’s income. Although only a small portion of Jakes sermon was used on the remix, this may still warrant a significant percentage of the royalties to be paid out. These monies may include income from radio and television airplay, record sales, advertising commercial fees, TV synchronization income, ringtone payments, and so on.  Jakes is a powerful man and his sermons has garnered financial attention in forms of audio CDs, theatrical plays, movies, live streaming, etc. So, his bargaining power will be evident. This will create a worst-case scenario for Jeezy’s team. 

We will have to wait and see what happens. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. Until then, if you decide to sample someone else’s work, PLEASE confirm that the sample is cleared before the recording is released.