Settlement pending in Syl Johnson copyright case

With a settlement pending, soul singer Syl Johnson’s suit against Kanye West and Jay-Z for unauthorized sampling of a Johnson track has been dismissed.

In October, R&B vet Johnson filed suit in Illinois federal court against the superstar rappers, alleging that “The Joy,” a track on their hit album “Watch the Throne,” infringed on the copyright of his 1967 hit “Different Strokes” (Daily Variety, Oct. 19).

Johnson’s attorney Mazie A. Harris said the action was dismissed on Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo. A settlement is expected within the next six weeks.

Johnson had claimed that West and Jay-Z had used “Different Strokes” without permission, and that no royalties had been paid from the sale of “Watch the Throne,” which was released last August and sold more than 1 million copies.

Johnson’s Twilight label released the original track — reissued on a massive Grammy-nominated 2010 boxed set by Chicago’s Numero Group — and the vocalist controls the copyright of the song, penned by John Cameron and John Zachary, through his publishing company Syl-Zel.

“Different Strokes” is a cult soul classic that has been sampled by dozens of hip-hop artists, including Public Enemy, N.W.A., Wu-Tang Clan, Boogie Down Productions and the Beastie Boys. Michael Jackson employed the song on a 1997 remix.

Suit named Universal Music Group, Island Def Jam Music Group and Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records as co-defendants. A UMG spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

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