The Timbaland case – the plagiarism controversy

The producer Timbaland took a song from a c64 musician and rearranged it for Nelly Furtado. Then came a big flamewar because of the copyright.

The Timbaland case – the plagiarism controversy
summed up by Ghandy

In his wildest dreams, the prominent c64 graphician and musician Janne Suni, better known as Tempest of Fairlight (ex-Damage) didn’t imagine what happened at the end of last year and Spring of 2007.

She of all people, the canadian songwriter and artist Nelly Furtado used for her title “Do it” of her actual album “Loose” the melody and bassline of Tempests 4-channel protracker module “acid jazzed evening”. In the year 2000 Janne Suni had won the “Oldskool Music” competition at the Assembly.

Grand Thefts Audio united, photoshopped by Maali

Shortly after that the song was remixed with authorisation by Glenn Rune Gallefoss (a.k.a. GRG). This version has been added to the High Voltage SID Collection at the end of 2002. And this version was obviously the victim of Timbalands plagirism.

Timbaland & the grand theft audio

The british blogger from UKScene and various users from Pouet.net took exception to this case. Did the commercially working songstress let herself inspire that extensive by a free tune of the demoscene? Or further: Did she have a clue what her producer has done off the stage? Or is it more Timbaland, who’s responsible for this burglary? At least it seems so.

After the discussions began in December 2006 at various scene related sites, the allegations began to emerge shortly later at Digg.com, Slashdot.org and Somethingawful.com. Its authors are friends of explicit words. They didn’t speak of backing or inspiration, they called it thievery. Also, they asked themselves how to protect against compareable onslaughts, how to protect yourself against such a plagiarism as musician?

photoshopped by Gloom

A few days later a video was posted by a norwegian demoscener at YouTube.com (search for “Timbaland rips”) There you can see and hear a direct comparism of the original tune from Tempest and the commercial copy of Timbaland. Both songs sound out of a piece. Even when they did play them at exactly the same time no dissonances or timing problems did occur.

The direct comparison brought the proof

In the comment section of YouTube they also published that in the year 2005, Timbaland has sold the same tune as ringtone for cellphones for american customers at his website. That ringtone was called “Block Party”. Watch this video for more informations and a direct comparism between the ringtone and the original sid tune on the c64.

But we’re far from the end of the story. In January 2007 the C64 demogroup Chronic spoofed the US-american top producer Timbaland with their intro “Timbalame“. Pictures did show up at boards where he did hold a SidStation. You probably know that this synthesizer combines the original MOS6591 soundchip of the C64 and C128 with a modern operating system and hardware.

from the pouet.net thread – by 007.

Timbaland was used to play around with this sort of hardware. The whole case seemed more and more realistic for everybody, even the quite serious “Rolling Stone” magazine began to report about it.

The news got spread around

On January 22nd, MTV took notice of the issue with a longer article and according video-news. It is not clear if this video news was merely for online consumption or actually broadcast. MTV owned sister station VH-1 also published the MTV news story. MTV had apparently tried to reach Timbaland’s representatives via phone and e-mail, but they “had not responded at press time”.

In February the accused producer commented on this issue. And if you thought he would bring a factual sounding declaration of his attorney, forget about it. Answering the question if he ever did copy the work of somebody else, Timbaland replied that he had never has done that, but at least he had to acknowledge that he used other peoples samples.

Timbaland denied everything

I didn’t rip- go say “Hey I’m gonna steal your beat”. I don’t have to, I’m too good.” laughs

Done by xernobyl, from the pouet.net bbs.

“I put it this way. ‘Cause, that mess is so ridiculous, I can’t really talk about it because I’m in legal- legal discussions and whatever, but I’m gonna tell you, if people- That’s what I don’t believe. Look at my face- I don’t know who their faces are. The hell wrong with them? [laughs] That’s all I can tell you. It’s from a video game, idiot!” laughs

Freaking jerk. Yeah, ’cause it’s like, my whole thing is, yeah, because don’t say I stole some- like, you act- like you just say- A sample, and stole, are two different things. (…)

Is he crazy? I live in America. I don’t even stay in Finla- I ain’t gonna get into it. Then sample is like, you heard it somewhere, and you just sample it. (…)

So, that’s what sampling is. That’s not stealing, ’cause everybody sample from everybody every day. And that’s what a sample is, like, it maybe [even needs a] credit, cause, hey, I sampled it, I got it from a game. I don’t know. And you have a listen. And it say, C-64, Commodore 64. I don’t know. You know what I’m saying? So, I like it. And I found it. I got sounds upon sounds upon sound. I don’t know what’s public domain and what’s not. Some stuff don’t say. (…)

Timbaland

It go on a lot ’cause everybody want to come out of the woodwork, say like “you done something. You stole this.” Or, You- . (three times whatever) Come on man, I’m good.

You can read the whole interview with Timbaland here.

Janne Suni aka Tempest replied in public, with the help of his attorney he had started to get in touch with the music company because of the implemented copyright infraction. Also he had never abandoned the copyright of his tune or allowed anybody a commercial usage of it. The famous c64 musician and remixer Glenn Rune Gallefoss a.k.a. GRG announced at this webiste, that he didn’t want to comment elaborate about the whole case. He had contacted his attorneys and expected quick proceedings.

You will need much money to beat this!

Hannu Sormunen, a Finnish representative of Universal, which represents Nelly Furtado in Finland, commented the Timbaland controversy as follows in the January 15 issue of Iltalehti:

Tempest/Fairlight (ex-Damage).

“In case that the artist decides to pursue the matter further, it’s on him to go to America and confront them with the local use of law. It will require a considerable amount of faith and, of course, money.”

What ever you track, a tune for a demo, intro, game or what else – the rights remain to the composer. It doesn’t matter if that game or demo is being released as public domain. It’s not like the journalist of the XXL wants to point it out: “The collective pride of a bunch of geeks and their ongoing war with mainstream media”. We’re speaking of the rights on a tune and especially about loads of money. We’ll see if Tempest will have a chance to be compensated for his creative work. According to the editor of that XXL Magazine, there has been too much media coverage on the event.

Timbaland got his money worth and did let it crack by calling someone else as an idiot and video kid. Funny enough in April 2007 it was published that Timba would work with the program “Beaterator“, a sequencer with beatbox for the Sony PSP. Obviously he did plan to create tracks for the games publisher Rockstar-Games – that’s the company that brought out GTA (Grand Theft Auto) So, who’s now the videogame kid?

Timbaland
Screenshot of the game “Raid on Timbaland” on C64.

In March Timba has been spoofed by the SWAT-Saboteurs, who created a c64 game called “Raid on Timbaland“. The game simulates an armed robbery at the Timbaland Studios.

The usage of guns isn’t unpopular in this sort of music scene. Even Snoop dog has been arrested by the police. Some years ago, they caught him for transporting a gun in a secret reservoir in his car, which wasn’t registered to his name. In April at the Breakpoint party Timbaland has been fooled by an Amiga fake group with their demo “I Has A Demomaker” by Salami Tactics. This has been a demo done with the Karate Script from Mankind, which is a sort of demomaker.

And now in May?

The proceedings of the duly accredited law firms of Timbaland and GRG are still running. International rights do take their time, loads of it. You cannot expect a fair-minded statement of Nelly Furtado, she remains silent – or from Timbaland. You cannot expect a quick success of this law suit either. All parties concerned are condemned to wait what will happen next. So are we.

The last words from Tempest of Fairlight in this case are these:

My case regarding the controversy has come to its closure. Just as before, I will not answer any questions about the case. However, I’d like to thank everyone who supported me in one way or another, and as a token of my gratitude I will express it here in a musical form. The page will be updated little by little, so keep tuned.

Janne Suni aka Tempest of FLT.

Compare original & copy on your own
UKScene Blog (sadly offline and not completely archived!)
Another plagiat – Micromusic versus Fitts for fight.
Timbaland radio interview
Tempest/Fairlight about the case.
Wikipedia.org about this case.
“Scene music stolen” thread at pouet.net.
The reply of Glenn Rune Gallefoss (GRG).
A good link collection concerning this event.

Kategorie: English, Jurassic Pack
Lars Sobiraj

Über

Lars Sobiraj fing im Jahr 2000 an, als Quereinsteiger für verschiedene Computerzeitschriften tätig zu sein. 2006 kamen neben gulli.com noch zahlreiche andere Online-Magazine dazu. Er ist der Gründer von Tarnkappe.info. Außerdem bringt Ghandy, wie er sich in der Szene nennt, seit 2014 an verschiedenen Hochschulen und Fortbildungseinrichtungen den Teilnehmern bei, wie das Internet funktioniert.