Monday, April 1, 2024

De22ou el Chamasi - and the convoluted copyright laws in the Middle East

Heard about the De22ou el Chamasi issue? 

First look at the ad - here. It is for Al Ahli Malak - and I thought it was cute as a button (lovely, lively, well-styled, bubble gum colored, and youngish....). 

OK, I am also sure you know the original song by Abdel Halim Hafez from the movie "Abi Fawka Al Chajara" (my father above the tree). Here is a reminder.

Ever since the ad started airing, the estate of Abdel Halim filed a motion to stop it (A kind of "cease and desist"). The issue? Well, it was written by Moursi Jamil Aziz and the music is by Mounir Mrad. Meaning that Abdel Halim Hazef (for all his greatness) and his estate have nothing to do with the song - at all. And yet, they prevailed. The ad stopped airing but as with everything, the saying goes "كل ممنوع مرغوب" - everything that is banned is desired, so this did not stop people from watching it over and over on the net.

Years ago, Jay-Z and Timbaland were sued for sampling Baligh Hamdi's "Khosara Khosara" (ironically the song was a hit for Abdel Halim Hafez as well) in Jay-Z's hit "Big Pimpin', the issue - filed by Baligh Hamdi's nephew - was that the music was sampled in a song promoting promiscuous behavior. Interestingly, whereas the two artists cleared the track with BMI Arabia for 100,000 USD, apparently the estate of Hamdi thought they could sue on "moral grounds". Timbaland (born Tomothy Mosley) eventually asked in the court - "So, who did I pay 100 grand to?"

Well apparently Egyptian law allows suing for infringement of "moral rights" of the author of a work. A concept which does not translate in the United States law. But all of this is very murky. Who owns the song (or the piece of art)? Who is allowed to sue? Under what grounds? 

So when Lebanese singer Elissa (truth be told, she has a limited vocal range even if she knows what works for her voice) sang "Awal Mara T7eb" by Abdel Halim Hafez - the latter's nephew Mohamad Chabana issued a statement saying that his family was not contacted by Elissa and that they had no right to object since songs can be sung by other people publicly since this is not enforced under Egyptian law, yet this is enforced for lyricists and composers.

And yet this does not apply to De22ou el Chamasi.

Go figure!