Drake’s Alteration of Jazz Praise Makes It Fair Use


In the early 1980s, Jazzman Jimmy Smith said “jazz is the only real music that’s gonna last” in a spoken-word recording. Hip-hop artist Drake sampled 35 seconds of Smith’s speech for 2013’s “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2,” but he took out the reference to jazz.


This was enough to make Drake’s use transformative under copyright law’s fair use doctrine, because Drake’s purpose was “sharply different” from Smith’s, according to a May 30 federal district court ruling.


The original was “an unequivocal statement on the primacy of jazz over all other forms of popular music,” according to Judge William H. Pauley III of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a court that hears a lot of copyright infringement cases involving music and the arts.


Drake changed the words to say that “real music is the only thing that’s gonna last.” This alteration “transforms Jimmy Smith’s brazen dismissal of all non-jazz music,” the court said.