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Timbaland plagiarism controversy

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The 2007 dance-pop song "Do It" performed by Canadian singer-songwriter Nelly Furtado features elements sampled from "Acidjazzed Evening", a chiptune-style track composed by the Finnish demoscene artist Janne Suni. This was considered plagiarism by some.[1][2] Timbaland, "Do It"'s producer, admitted to sampling Suni's work, but did not believe his usage constituted "stealing", calling the allegations "ridiculous".[3] Although users had noted the similarities between the two tracks on Finnish demoscene forums in July 2006, the Timbaland plagiarism controversy attracted mainstream attention in January 2007, when Internet users posted videos to YouTube alleging Timbaland had plagiarized Suni's work. Soon afterwards, the controversy attracted the attention of the Finnish news portal eDome, and the MTV and Rolling Stone websites, who all published articles detailing the events of the controversy.[4][5][6][7] "Do It" was released as the fifth North American single from Loose on July 24, 2007.



The original track, titled "Acidjazzed Evening", is a chiptune-style, 4-channel Amiga module composed by Finnish demoscener Janne Suni (a.k.a. Tempest).[8] The song won first place in the Oldskool Music competition at Assembly 2000, a demoparty held in Helsinki, Finland, in 2000.[9] According to Scene.org, the song was uploaded to their servers the same year, long before the release of the song by Furtado. The song was later remixed (with Suni's permission) by Norwegian Glenn Rune Gallefoss (a.k.a. GRG) for the Commodore 64 in SID format—this is the version that was later used for "Do It". It was first published in a disk magazine in Australia in August 2002[10][11] and was added to the High Voltage SID Collection on December 21, 2002.[12]

Authors' comments


Janne Suni


Janne Suni posted the following comment regarding the copyright status of "Acidjazzed Evening" on January 15, 2007:

...I have never given up the copyrights of Acidjazzed Evening. I also have never authorized commercial use of the song. In 2002, however, Glenn Rune Gallefoss (also known as GRG) made a conversion/arrangement of the Acidjazzed Evening which was not released commercially. This arrangement was made on the Commodore 64 computer. It was authorized by me, and Glenn Rune Gallefoss explicitly asked for permission before releasing the arrangement.[8]

On February 16, 2007, he added the following note:

I'll correct one persistent misconception: I have been using the services of a law firm since September 2006. Things are gradually developing behind the scenes, and whatever the result turns out to be like, I'll publish any available info here as soon as possible.[8]

On September 9, 2007, his webpage was updated with the following information:

My case regarding the controversy has come to its closure. Just as before, I will not answer any questions about the case.[8]

Glenn Gallefoss


The C64 news portal C64.sk published the following comment from Glenn R. Gallefoss on January 15, 2007:

... Its my sid version that has been sampled in do-it : You can hear that by the 11 waveform bleeps I have put in at random places (only 3 voices on a sid you know), the arpeggios are using filters, I can even hear the lead using my multipulse routine (which i rarely use, but i did it on acidjazz.sid ).[13]

On February 3, Gallefoss published the following comment on his personal web page:

Not much to tell about this matter. I have made a deal with my lawyers. Sometime in the near future, something will happen.[14]

Universal / Nelly Furtado


Hannu Sormunen, a Finnish representative of Universal, which represents Nelly Furtado in Finland, commented the controversy as follows in the January 15, 2007, issue of Iltalehti:

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.[4]

The first legal action against Universal Finland was officially filed with Helsinki District Court in mid-August 2007, on behalf of Glenn R. Gallefoss.



On February 2, 2007, Timbaland responded to the plagiarism accusations in an interview on the radio show Elliot in the Morning. In this interview, Timbaland admitted to what he called "sampling", but he also claimed that sampling is "not stealing", because "everybody samples from everybody every day". Timbaland also said that the sample is "from a video game" and mentioned the Commodore 64. He also said that he has no time for research and that it is sometimes impossible to "know what's public domain and what's not". Timbaland also called the issue "ridiculous" but mentioned that he is "in legal discussions" and therefore was not able to say much about it. He also called Janne Suni an "idiot" and a "freakin' jerk" on the show.[15]

On February 9, 2007, Timbaland commented on the issue in an MTV interview:

It makes me laugh. The part I don't understand, the dude is trying to act like I went to his house and took it from his computer. I don't know him from a can of paint. I'm 15 years deep. That's how you attack a king? You attack moi? Come on, man. You got to come correct. You the laughing stock. People are like, "You can't be serious."[16]

Third-party analysis


A device in Timbaland's studio, as seen in video clips from the MTV show Timbaland's Diary, has been identified as an Elektron SidStation.[5] This device is a MIDI-controlled synthesizer based on the SID chip of the Commodore 64, and it is capable of playing back .sid files the way they would have sounded on the original hardware. It has been speculated that Timbaland downloaded Gallefoss' version of the song from the High Voltage SID Collection[17] and used the SidStation for running it to the studio system.[5]

Court proceedings


In August 2007, an action for infringement was filed in the District Court of Helsinki against Universal Music, Ltd, alleging Nelly Furtado's song "Do It" infringed "Acidjazzed Evening".[18][19] In January 2009, after a trial that included multiple expert and technical witnesses, a three-judge panel unanimously dismissed the plaintiff's case.[citation needed]

On December 17, 2008, Abbott also testified as a witness of prosecution in the Helsinki court in Gallefoss's case against Universal Music Finland. The Finnish court reportedly threw out the case after ruling in only one aspects of the three claims (sampling, performance rights, producer rights), and the case remained in appellate court as of January 2010.[20]

On June 12, 2009, Mikko Välimäki, who is one of the legal counsels of Kernel Records, the owner of the sound recording rights, reported that the case had been filed in Florida.[21][22] On June 7, 2011, the case of Kernel Records Oy v. Mosley ended with the court deciding that the tune was a US work as it had been first published on the Internet and that Kernel Records had failed to register for copyright in the United States.[23] This reversed the decision of Moberg v. 33T LLC, which decided that a photograph published online in Germany was not a US work.[24][25][26][27][28] As a result, Timbaland prevailed on summary judgment and the court dismissed the lawsuit.[29] Timbaland's attorneys in the U.S. case included noted entertainment litigator Jeffrey D. Goldman.[30]

Media coverage


The beginnings of the controversy


The earliest Internet forum posts suggesting that "Do It" was based on "Acidjazzed Evening" date back to July 2006,[31] and according to the Finnish news portal eDome, "Suni and other demoscene hobbyists" already knew about it at this time.[5]

Mainstream coverage


One of the first large media to react to the on-line controversy was the Finnish Broadcasting Company, which published a news item on the topic on January 14, 2007.[32]

The electronic music magazine Side-Line put a complete news round-up up on its website.[33] Finnish tabloids Ilta-Sanomat,[34] Iltalehti,[35] and newspapers ITviikko,[36] and DigiToday[37] also published articles about the suspected plagiarism on January 15, 2007.

On January 16, Finnish news portal eDome published an article about the case saying in the English summary that:

It is beyond any doubt that Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley has directly copied large sections of Janne Suni’s songs, much more than any "fair use" would allow. Timbaland has not sampled tiny bits or effects from the song, but whole sections. This is a clear breach of copyright.[5]

The article also covered similar cases from the past and notified that both the competition and the prize ceremony "were witnessed by the 4000-5000 people at the event. The competition and the ceremony were also shown in Helsinki area cable TV".[5] The same day, the news reached Norwegian media, including Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation[38] and Dagbladet,[39] both of which interviewed Gallefoss.

On January 17, the case was reported on briefly by the Rolling Stone website,[40] XXL Magazine,[41] and the popular German IT news portal Heise online. Heise's story suggests that Timbaland downloaded Gallefoss's SID arrangement from the High Voltage SID Collection.[17]

On January 18, Rolling Stone put the controversy as top news of the day with a more detailed article.[6] Later that day the San Jose Mercury News covered the story on their blog.[42]

On January 22, MTV took notice of the issue with a longer article and video news. It is not clear if this video news was actually broadcast or merely posted online.[7] MTV-owned sister station VH-1 also published the MTV news story. MTV had attempted to reach Timbaland's representatives via phone and e-mail, but they "had not responded at press time".[7]

See also



  1. ^ Ginsburg, Jane C.; Treppoz, Edouard (July 15, 2014). International Copyright Law: U.S. and E.U. Perspectives: Text and Cases. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 198–204. ISBN 9781783477975.
  2. ^ DiCola, Peter (2011). Making and Unmaking Intellectual Property: Creative Production in Legal and Cultural Perspective - An Economic View of Legal Restrictions on Musical Borrowing and Appropriation. University of Chicago Press. p. chapter 13.
  3. ^ "Soundscapes: From Dr. Dre to J. Cole: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop". Archived from the original on March 28, 2019. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Onko Nellyn hitti Suomesta?" (Finnish)
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Yhdysvaltalaistuottaja pölli suomalaismuusikolta". Plaza.fi. Archived from the original on February 23, 2007. Retrieved February 28, 2010.
  6. ^ a b "Is Timbaland a Thief?". Rolling Stone. January 18, 2007. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2017.()
  7. ^ a b c "YouTube Clip Claims Timbaland Got Furtado Track From Finnish Dude". MTV. Archived from the original on January 25, 2007.
  8. ^ a b c d "Tempest's website". Fairlight.fi. September 9, 2007. Retrieved February 28, 2010.
  9. ^ "Scene.org's Assembly 2000 results data". Scene.org. Retrieved February 28, 2010.
  10. ^ Fitzgerald, Brian; Gilchrist, John (2015). Copyright Perspectives: Past, Present and Prospect. 4.3.3: Springer. p. 40. ISBN 9783319159126.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  11. ^ pouët.net: vandalism news #39
  12. ^ High Voltage SID Collection Update #34
  13. ^ "GRG's cover of Tempest's tune got ripped". C64.sk. Retrieved February 28, 2010.
  14. ^ GRG/Shape. "GRG's web site / news". Home.eunet.no. Archived from the original on March 23, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2010.
  15. ^ "Elliot in the Morning - Timbaland interviewed transcript". Retrieved February 28, 2010.
  16. ^ Rodriguez, Jayson (February 9, 2007). "Timbaland Still In Shock Over Jay-Z, Madonna, Elton Collaborations". Mtv.com. Archived from the original on February 11, 2007. Retrieved February 28, 2010.
  17. ^ a b "Hiphop-Produzent wilderte in C64-Musikarchiv". January 17, 2007.
  18. ^ MusicRadar: Timbaland, Nelly Furtado sued for plagiarism
  19. ^ BoingBoing: Timbaland finally sued over chiptune plagiarism(archived copy)
  20. ^ "Commodore Remix - Timbaland Court Case starts on Wednesday". Remix64.com. Retrieved February 28, 2010.
  21. ^ "Kernel Records v. Timbaland enters a court in Florida at Turre Legal". Turre.com. June 6, 2009. Retrieved February 28, 2010.
  22. ^ Joe Bosso (June 17, 2009). "MusicRadar: Timbaland, Nelly Furtado sued for plagiarism". Retrieved November 16, 2014.
  23. ^ Genius: When Hip Hop Goes to Court: Rap Lawsuits and Music Law
  24. ^ Warshavsky, Oren J. (September 18, 2012). "Whoa Nelly: Furtado and Timbaland defeat copyright claim as plaintiff fails to show evidence". Lexology.
  25. ^ Lexology: District court holds online publication means publication of a U.S. work
  26. ^ "Copyhype: Timbaland wins 2nd Sampling Lawsuit in 3 Months". Copyhype. Retrieved November 16, 2014.
  27. ^ Copyhype: Timbaland wins 2nd Sampling Lawsuit in 3 Months
  28. ^ Hip Hop Wired: Nelly Furtado And Timbaland Dodge Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit
  29. ^ Ugwu, Reggie. "Timbaland and Nelly Furtado Beat $20 Million Lawsuit". BET. BET. Retrieved December 31, 2023.
  30. ^ Lopez, Connie. "Intellectual Property 2013" (PDF). www.jmbm.com. Daily Journal. Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  31. ^ Vee.fi user reviews of Nelly Furtado: Loose Archived July 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ "Amerikkalaista hiphop-tuottaja Timbalandia syytetään suomalaisen plagioinnista". January 14, 2007.
  33. ^ "Did Björk producer Timbaland steal music from demoscene? More evidences showing up !". Side-line.com. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved February 28, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)()
  34. ^ "Suosittu jenkkibiisi onkin suomalaiskopio?". May 18, 2023. Archived from the original on January 17, 2007.
  35. ^ "Onko Nellyn hitti Suomesta?".
  36. ^ "Hittituottaja varasti suomalaisen Amiga-biisin?". May 18, 2023.
  37. ^ "Veisaako Nelly Furtado Suomesta varastettua Amiga-biisiä?". May 18, 2023.
  38. ^ "Norsk offer i plagiat-skandale".
  39. ^ "Anklager stjerneprodusent for juks". January 16, 2007.
  40. ^ "Finnish Artists After Nelly Furtado?". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on January 18, 2007.
  41. ^ "Revenge Of The Nerds - Timbaland vs. The Internet". Archived from the original on March 15, 2008. Retrieved June 17, 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) at the Internet Archive
  42. ^ "Did Super Producer Timbaland copy the track of "Do It" off of Finnish producer Janne Suni?". San Jose Mercury News. Archived from the original on August 7, 2011. Retrieved January 19, 2007.