2007 Timbaland plagiarism controversy

2007 Timbaland plagiarism controversy

Timbaland's plagiarism controversy occurred in January 2007, when several news sources reported that Timbaland (Timothy Z. Mosley) was alleged to have plagiarized several elements (both motifs and samples) in the song "Do It" on the 2006 album "Loose" by Nelly Furtado without giving credit or compensation. The song itself was released as the fifth North American single from "Loose" on July 24, 2007.


The claimed original track, entitled "Acidjazzed Evening", is a chiptune-style 4-channel Amiga module composed by Finnish demoscener Janne Suni (a.k.a. Tempest). [http://www.fairlight.fi/tempest/ Tempest's website] ] The song won first place in the Oldskool Music competition at Assembly 2000, a demoparty held in Helsinki, Finland in 2000. [ [http://www.scene.org/file.php?file=%2Fparties%2F2000%2Fassembly00%2Fresults.txt&fileinfo Scene.org's Assembly 2000 results data] ] 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 which was later allegedly sampled for "Do It". It was added to the High Voltage SID Collection on December 21, 2002. [ [http://hangar18.campus.luth.se/exotica/tunes/archive/C64Music/DOCUMENTS/Update34.hvs High Voltage SID Collection Update #34] ]

A video which claims to show proof of the theft was posted to YouTube on January 12,2007. [YouTube [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4KX7SkDe4Q Producer Timbaland steals song from Finnish musician] ] Another video was posted to YouTube on January 14, 2007, claiming Timbaland also stole the tune a year earlier for the ringtone "Block Party", one of several that were sold in the United States in 2005. [YouTube [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wV2fTEeP6GM Timbaland steals song - more proof!] ]

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."

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."

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."

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 plaves (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 )." [ [http://www.c64.sk/?content=news&searchstring=UPDATE+15.+JAN+2007+15%3A20%3A+GRG C64.sk: GRG’s cover of Tempest’s tune got ripped] ]

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." [ [http://home.eunet.no/~ggallefo/ GRG's web site / news] ]

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. [http://www.iltalehti.fi/popstars/200701145593138_ps.shtml Onko Nellyn hitti Suomesta?] (Finnish) ]

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 by the radio show Elliot in the Morning. In this interview, Timbaland admits to what he calls "sampling", but he also claims that sampling is "not stealing", because "everybody samples from everybody every day". Timbaland also says that the sample is "from a video game" and mentions the Commodore 64. He also says 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 calls the issue "ridiculous" but mentions that he is "in legal discussions" and therefore can't say much about it. He did, however, call Janne Suni an "idiot" and a "freakin' jerk" on the show. He consistently talked about the incident as sampling, failing to address the claims with regards to the melody. [ [http://www.zxdemo.org/extra/timbaland_radio_transcript.txt Elliot in the Morning - Timbaland interviewed transcript] ]

On February 9, 2007, Timbaland commented on the issue as follows 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.'" [ [http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1552023/20070209/timbaland.jhtml Timbaland Still In Shock Over Jay-Z, Madonna, Elton Collaborations] ]

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. 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 and used the SidStation for running it to the studio system.

Chris Abbott, maintainer of the website C64Audio.com, posted an in-depth analysis on the topic and summarizes it in his on-line article. Abbott has commercially released Commodore 64 music, most notably the "Back in Time" CD series. Abbott writes regarding the alleged plagiarism:

"What appears to have happened is that the three-voice output from the original C64 version has had the bass voice silenced: that missing bass voice then follows the original tune except for a couple of changed notes, and the removal of some octave jumps. However, various technical procedures show that other components of the song (chords/melody/rhythm) have been exactly reproduced. This is vanishingly unlikely to have happened by chance." [http://www.c64audio.com/timbaland.php Chris Abbott: Doin' it for themselves: what's going on in Timbaland?] ]

Abbott also notes that although the evidence seems to be conclusive, the eventual outcome is not. The record company has a multitude of possible reactions to the controversy as well as many possible reasons why the sample was not cleared on the first place.

imilar cases

Earlier examples of unauthorized commercial use of SID music have been brought up by sources covering the Timbaland plagiarism controversy.

An often-mentioned example is Zombie Nation's 1999 hit "Kernkraft 400", which was a remake of David Whittaker's song for the 1984 Commodore 64 game Lazy Jones. David Whittaker was paid an undisclosed sum for it. [ [http://web.archive.org/web/20010630145207/http://www.nme.com/NME/External/News/News_Story/0,1004,9126,00.html NME: OK COMPUTER!] ] Another example is the Dutch hit "You've Got My Love", for which the artist Bas "Bastian" Bron sampled the drums from Jeroen Tel's and Reyn Ouwehand's song made for the Rubicon game. Both of the cases were won by the original authors in court.

The Fitts for Fight case also involved stolen chipmusic.

In April 2008, a similar case was revealed about self-proclaimed "chiptune maestro" Laromlab, who released his self-titled album on Mushpot Records, but shortly after was discovered that the entire album is in fact the work of a chiptune collective called the YM Rockerz. Mushpot responded by dropping Laromlab immediately from the label [ [http://mushpotrecords.com/news/ Mushpot Records ] ] , and Laromlab himself has issued an apology, stating the "project was a hoax, a complete fallacy". [ [http://prod1.cmj.com/articles/display_article.php?id=63047429&loc=interstitialskip CMJ News Story ] ]

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 [ [http://www.vee.fi/musiikki/levyt/nelly_furtado/loose/kayttajien_arviot/ Vee.fi user reviews of Nelly Furtado: Loose] ] , and according to the Finnish news portal eDome, "Suni and other demoscene hobbyists" already knew about it at this time. [http://plaza.fi/harrastukset/edome/artikkelit/yleiset/yhdysvaltalaistuottaja-polli-suomalaismuusikolta Yhdysvaltalaistuottaja pölli suomalaismuusikolta] (Finnish) ]

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 in January 14, 2007.cite web|url=http://www.yle.fi/uutiset/kulttuuri/id51183.html|title=Amerikkalaista hiphop-tuottaja Timbalandia syytetään suomalaisen plagioinnista]

The electronic music magazine Side-Line put a complete news round-up up on its website. [ [http://www.side-line.com/news_comments.php?id=20102_0_2_0_C Did Björk producer Timbaland steal music from demoscene? More evidences showing up !] ] Finnish tabloids Ilta-Sanomat, [cite web|url=http://www.iltasanomat.fi/viihde/uutinen.asp?id=1301161|title=Suosittu jenkkibiisi onkin suomalaiskopio?] Iltalehti, [cite web|url=http://www.iltalehti.fi/popstars/200701145593138_ps.shtml|title=Onko Nellyn hitti Suomesta?] and newspapers ITviikko, [cite web|url=http://itviikko.fi/page.php?page_id=15&news_id=20071045|title=Hittituottaja varasti suomalaisen Amiga-biisin?] and DigiToday [cite web|url=http://www.digitoday.fi/page.php?page_id=11&news_id=20071051|title=Veisaako Nelly Furtado Suomesta varastettua Amiga-biisiä?] also published articles about the suspected plagiarism on January 15, 2007.

On January 16th, 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." [http://plaza.fi/harrastukset/edome/artikkelit/yleiset/yhdysvaltalaistuottaja-polli-suomalaismuusikolta Yhdysvaltalaistuottaja pölli suomalaismuusikolta] ]

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." The same day, the news reached Norwegian media, including Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation [cite web|url=http://www.nrk.no/kanal/nrk_p3/5828277.html|title=Norsk offer i plagiat-skandale] and Dagbladet [cite web|url=http://www.dagbladet.no/kultur/2007/01/16/489070.html|title=Anklager stjerneprodusent for juks] , both of which interviewed Gallefoss.

On January 17th, the case was reported on briefly by the Rolling Stone website, [cite web|url=http://www.rollingstone.com/rockdaily/index.php/2007/01/16/kanye-west-and-fall-out-boy-get-intimate-finnish-artists-after-nelly-furtado-jamie-foxx-parses-own-vocabulary/|title=Finnish Artists After Nelly Furtado?] XXL Magazine,cite web|url=http://xxlmag.com/online/?p=6979|title=Revenge Of The Nerds - Timbaland vs. The Internet] 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.cite web|url=http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/83835|title=Hiphop-Produzent wilderte in C64-Musikarchiv] .

On January 18th, Rolling Stone put the controversy as top news of the day with a more detailed articlecite web|url=http://www.rollingstone.com/rockdaily/index.php/2007/01/18/is-timbaland-a-thief/|title=Is Timbaland a Thief?] . Later that day the San Jose Mercury News covered the story in their blog [cite web|url=http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/2007/01/did_super_produ.html|title=Did Super Producer Timbaland copy the track of "Do It" off of Finnish producer Janne Suni?]

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 broadcastcite web|url=http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1550506/20070122/timbaland.jhtml|title=YouTube Clip Claims Timbaland Got Furtado Track From Finnish Dude] . 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".


External links

* [http://www.scene.org/file.php?file=%2Fparties%2F2000%2Fassembly00%2Foldskool%2Fmusic%2Facid_jaz.zip&fileinfo Acidjazzed Evening] (MOD format, ZIP-compressed)
* [http://hafnium.prg.dtu.dk/HVSC/C64Music/MUSICIANS/B/Blues_Muz/Gallefoss_Glenn/Acid_Jazz.sid Acid Jazz (C64 remix)] (SID format)
* [http://www.pelulamu.net/timbaland/ Collection of different sources about the issue]

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