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Jay Z accused of stealing Swiss music sample

Bruno Spoerri and Jay Z Keystone

Veteran Swiss jazz and electronic musician Bruno Spoerri has accused Jay Z, one of the United States’ most successful hip hop artists, of illegally using a 1978 music sample in the rapper’s latest album Magna Carta Holy Grail.

“In a way I’m flattered that a relatively young rapper takes a sample from an old man, a sample that is about 35 years old,” 78-year-old Spoerri told, speaking from his home in Zurich.

“On the other hand I’m furious because it would have been so simple to clear the sample. All it would have needed was a call or an email to the company and I think it would have been relatively cheap.”

Lawyers for Spoerri’s record label Finders Keepers have been in contact with the production company for the album, Timbaland Productions, about the disputed track, Versus, since September 2013 when the claim first came to light.

“I got a call from Andy Votel, the boss of Finders Keepers, who had just recognised the sample. He asked me to keep quiet because he wanted to talk to them first and see what happened.”

But the issue of credit or royalties has not yet been resolved. Since the story broke on the Swiss news site on Monday, video clips of the two tracks on YouTube have been attracting interest.

Here’s Spoerri’s track from 1978:

External Content

And the track Versus from Jay Z’s latest album:

External Content

The 1978 track On the Way was composed by Spoerri for the film Lilith.

Financially, the two musicians are at opposite ends of the music spectrum.

In 2012, Forbes estimated the net worth of Jay Z – real name Shawn Carter – from music and other businesses at $500 million (CHF450 million). Jay Z and Justin Timberlake won a Grammy award on January 26 for their collaboration on another track from Magna Carta Holy Grail.

Spoerri, who still performs once or twice a month, says what matters most to him is an apology.

“I would like them to acknowledge what happened and say sorry. And then I think it would be fine if they would put my name on the piece and in the end I want to have a part of the money that comes in.”

Saxophonist, jazz musician and composer of film music and jingles for film and television advertisements, Spoerri has a broad repertoire. In 1965, he became one of the first in Switzerland to produce electronic music.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR