Rules Of Sampling

we’ve all heard a trillion artists that have done it, mostly on the underground. no need to mention who they are. most of them do it not to make money, but because it’s fun. breakcore in particular seems to have a “i’ll sample as i please and f.uck you if you don’t like it” attitude. which is totally cool.

however- what are some laws in regard to this? some of the rules have changed in recent times, but what do you know on the subject? i’m sure many here have no idea when they are breaking laws and when they aren’t. hopefully this thread will improve our knowledge on the subject without having to dig deep into the RIAA shit.

music: it’s off bounds now in any way/shape/form if it’s copyrighted, right? what if you vocode the vocals or chop the beats? is everyone who has ever used an amen break going to get f.ucked in prison?

video games: is this an “anything goes” territory?

movies: i have read that it is illegal to use movie samples. the writer of this, however, had never heard of a single instance where someone had been sued for using a movie sample. this realm seems relatively safe. any thoughts?

tv shows: ?

radio: ?

country of origin: does it matter where the original work was created/where the label is located?

country of sampling: does it matter where the sampling occurred?

country of residence: does it matter where the person who sampled someone else has official residence?

$: is it okay to do it as long as you’re not getting paid? this pertains to free downloads/myspace page/etc.

lawsuits: can they sue you for copyright infringement for more than you’re worth and extract money from your paychecks for the rest of your life?

etc. etc.
it’s complicated. there are copyright lawyers who specifically deal with this sort of thing, so there’s obviously a lot to know about it. but i think a lot of ppl here would be interested in knowing more on the subject without digging too deep. just share what you know on the subject, even if it’s not a lot.

i just ran into this btw.
Well, if I did sample some music, how can I avoid getting caught?
If you have not already done so, please make sure to read our disclaimer before proceeding. First, let’s review the difference about tone sampling and phrase sampling. When you sample just a tone (ex. a single note from a violin), you violate the copyright holder’s “sound recording” right. When you sample a phrase (ex. a lick, theme, or any distinct series of notes), you are most likely violating the copyright holder’s “composition rights” in addition. Though I really cannot advise you how to break the law, here’s the sitch:

You think about purchasing Peter Siedlaczek’s Advanced Orchestra series (by Best Service) for the trusty Akai. The string sounds are very good, if not some of the best you have ever heard on commercial sample CDs. But $200 a CD?! So you sample notes and phrases from one of your Pop-pop’s Bach Brandenburg Concerto albums - a clear case of sound recording infringement. In the mix, you realize, it is almost impossible to differentiate between the two.

I heard one time that you can always claim that it is for the art and your artistic freedom. Then you can get away with almost anything. Not sure how true that is though… :unsure: but whats sure is that when it comes to art a lot of people will defend a creation no matter what, because “art must never be forbidden.” etc etc.

hell yeah. we’ll just be like hey, it’s a freedom thing. you wouldn’t understand.

thx looza.

Apparently, even live mashing up songs on DJ set (looping parts, overlapping with beats) is a sampling copyright violation. And yes, they can sue you. But they don’t seem to be very successful at winning the case. :)

they mostly don’t bother is more like it. when they do they almost always win.

Nope, not always. Sometimes they just want to scare people.

I ve released maybe 45 records with lot s of illegal samples of everything inside! pop disco rock etc…
I ve made calculation of what should i have to pay as rights to be in-law for a 1000 pieces vinyl edition with 4 tracks with 4 remixes on it. It’s 200€ …
Do you really think that michael Jackson’s producers will intent a justice action to get at least 200€ ??
Thoses guys really don t care about the underground music scene, we are not tv diffused, rarely radiodiffused and we sell nearly never more than 10 000 copies… So no stress, sample all what you want ! Just take care if you ll make a commercial hit :)
If you want to be “cool” write on the record “with the friendly authorisation of “the artist” all rights reserved” it means that you don t have the rights and in case of radiodiffusion “the artist” will get the rights.

Check this month’s SOS mag for a nice feature on the subject.

The problem is, from a legal point of view, sampling is just plain illegal without the express permission of the original author. Period. Things need to change hardcore… for ages, musicians have been able to cover other artists music for a pre defined fee, the same should apply to samples.

I hate these kind of discussions… I even hate it’s even an issue. It’s so retarded there’s no words to explain. Laws in these matter origin from the start of Pop culture and mass distribution of recordings. It’s a way for companies and people to earn even more money and nothing else. It’s NOT about protecting your stuff by copyrighting. It’s pure GREED. GREED i tell ya!!

This was a message I got a few days ago.
** “your song follow the stream has a lot of impact on my life. lost a friend when he was at the young age of 21 almost a year ago. this was the song played at his funeral. i listen to it daily. such a great song” **

If i was as greedy as everyone else I’d sue the undertaker for not paying me royalty for playing the song at the funeral. But a things like these is about getting a warm fuzzy feeling about someone liking your stuff and actually looking up to you and your creations.

If someone ever used my samples or anything else that was mine, I wouldn’t want any money for that. A mention in the credits list and maybe a copy of the CD, with a thank you note reading: -" Thanks a lot for inspiring me or whatever" That’s what i would do. If I ever used a sample from someone else that i knew where it came from, I’d mention them, and let them know they made a Kick as Snare sound on that track that I’ve used in several on my songs and mention their name anywhere possible if i ever made money on that song.

Well … I’d like to make money from my music but not that way. Artists, producers, labels, copyright holders all over the world needs to think again. We all have favorite songs, artists, insturments, loops, and even tiny samples that inspires us to keep on creating.

Why doesnt Rock bands sue eachother dayly for using the same kind of guitar sound with same kind of distortion. when electronic music producers can sue eachother for using similar sounds. And why should some people get away by doing certain genres that are based on samples??

Copyrights my ass. Sue me for performing when I’m singing along to a song in the shower with open window so all the neighbourhood can hear it.

There’s a certain ammount of personal shame felt if you have some moral and ethical values. Ripping of a whole melody or a whole song or even a significant sound and calling it your own creation. How can you ever be proud of something like that? But hearing something you like imitating it, and following the trends and/or your own ideas should never be punished. But you should credit the creators or your sources of inspiration.

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the copyright only for a greedy mass of corporate a**-h**es wanting to make profit. And ask any artist, composers or producers out there if they ever personally even considered sueing someone for using a tiny sample from their creation. I guess not. That’s what the legal department do to earn themself more money by earning money for the artist sueing someone violating a pre-historic GREED oriented corparate mumbo-jumbo called COPY RIGHTS!

I’m pissed off now… I’m going home to eat some candy and icecream.

There are only so many possible melodies you can use to get across a certain feeling though, it’s like trying to use a number between 1 and 100 that nobody has used before… you’re going to fail every time. Do I see any shame in stealing a melody/rhythm that works? Not really… every single musician in existance does it. Sure we don’t do it consciously most of the time… but we’re really just constantly recycling melodies and grooves we’ve heard times past… sometimes we manage to get innovative and create a new flavor of an old recipe that people have never tried before. Just like cooking though, it’s all in the presentation. Noone’s gonna flank you for baking cookies… but if your recipe does it better than the other guy, yours are the cookies people will taste and say “By Jove, this pastry is nothing short of revolutionary!” ;)

… so how does this relate to sampling? Who the hell knows, but I use canned curry all the time and my guests love it ;) Perhaps the question of the day should be: should mother nature sue us for sampling and stealing all of our music (and raw materials for making equipment as well) from her? Or even more: Since when do people NOT want people to do something positive with their hard work?

… oh wait… that greed thing. Gotcha.

I know your anger to well Lareux :)

I agree! Personally I see melodies as tools of expression just as I see different instruments, loops or samples.

these laws are very useful, important and the reason that they are so strictly defined is the problem of a definition of “where does sampling start and where does it become a rip-off”.

I know that it may be hard to understand this if you are doing strictly underground music which will never get big, but just imagine this : You work a few weeks on a track, finish it, put it up on your website or somewhere else and a few weeks later you hear your track on the radio and watch it climb the (dance) charts up to no.1 after a few weeks. Well, it isn’t your track anymore because some blonde chick is singing “take me now on the kitchen table” over it, your track is abit re-arranged and also better mastered.
the guy behind this gets a full contract, starts touring and djing around the world, to make it short, he starts a career in music and quit his day job.

when you finally track him down and drag his ass infront of a court all he is responding is : "well, I do not know what the fuss is about, I was only sampling this guys track and he once wrote on a web-forum:

So, if you look at this cd, this white line right there in the lower left corner is his thank-you note set in 1,5pt-sized text, here is your CD and I have to go now, I am playing a festival tonight. goodbye."

catch my drift ?

The point is, it’s nice that you have sampling-ethics, I have sampling ethics, but there are millions of idiots out there that don’t have sampling-ethics.
I did alot of tracks that completely base on a long sample I’ve taken off some vinyl, if you take that sample away that track is nothing but some drums and maybe a bassline. If I earn a shitload of money with that track the original artist definately deserves the biggest share of that, because he essentially made the track, I just added stuff.

Take Daft Punk for example, take their CDs and substract everything from their tracks which is not done by them … You would be left with some empty tracks with a few drums and soundeffects. I really, really hope they had to pay edwin birdsong, barry manilow, chaka khan and all the other alot of money.

And why no 3-sec (or 3 notes or whatever) rule ?
well, how to define it ? only 3 seconds in a row ? then I take this 30second-loop, delete a few ms every 3 seconds (ping pong loop helps with that) and I didn’t technically sample 30 seconds but ten times 3 seconds and 3 seconds is okay, right ?

And apart from all that, what about the fact if you simply don’t like the track that uses your sample ? If you are a D’n’B-artist who did a great intro for some track and suddenly you learn that some ultra-fascist band is using exactly this intro for their live-shows right before pulling up the swastika-flags ?

Believe me, I am doing this for quite a long time and I thought like you until I got ripped off (a track of mine was pressed as a white-label in england and someone surely made 150-200 € with those, money I could have used back then) and some guys did “remixes” of my tracks that sucked worse than a hoover.

The rules are there, they are good and in the real world you are on the safe side if you respect some simple sample-ethics : Sample obscure stuff, don’t just add drums (that’s what made timbaland trip) and don’t get too big. The moment you start to earn serious money with music that is based on the hard work of someone else you have to share, and that’s a really fair rule.
Just keep in mind that the drummer of the amen-break died last year in horrible poverty (was living off welfare for the past decade) which is a f****ing shame if you ask me.

Apart from that, why exactly do we sample ? Because we need/want a sound we can’t come up with ourselves.
Why do I sample disco-loops from vinyl? Because I neither have the money nor the contacts to get a great funk/disco-band together in a studio and play some loops for me and also pay the technician to get this great 70s sound. Believe me, if I could I would throw my vinyls away (well, not really) and use those great recordings of this great funkband that plays the music I wrote and I would not have to pay any sampling-royalty ever. So I am actually better off paying for the sample instead of paying a studio-band, because this would surely be more than what you pay for those samples, apart from the fact that a studioband playing loops for a straight fee won’t be any good, if they are they want percentages.
Not to speak of the fact that you have to come up with the music first you wan’t them to play. And no, just telling them “play something like “Sex Machine” from James Brown” won’t work either.

So I am taking the work of someone else to fill in the gap that I can’t fill myself. This drastic example above aside, don’t you think that you should ask someone before you use their work ? Maybe that small little guitar-lick in that folksong you found yesterday and want to use in your next hardtrance-smasher is from a track by some guy who wrote it when his long-term-girlfriend finally died from cancer after being horribly ill for a year and he rather does not want anyone to tamper around with this sample because this track means so much to him?

No one does prevent you to make tracks that break those rules just for fun. As I said I do have quite some tracks that are completely based on huge samples/loops (discohouse/hiphop-beats) but I don’t give them away in a huge scale and if I ever should get those licensed I will clear those samples first thing.

And sampling isn’t forbidden by default, you can always ask, you won’t get it cleared all the time but you really should respect those decisions (whatever the reason is) and the best way to avoid this issue all together is simply by doing your own and completely unique music. (Something that I am far away from).

And if you want your stuff to be sampled you can always release it under the apropriate CC-License, no one will prevent you from that.

Well, but thats more like the colours in a painting (which are not protected either). The real work comes from your style and the timbre and the music as a whole.

Apart from that it is not like picking a number from 1-100, its really more like a quazillion because the chords, baseline, rhythm and overall sound play into that. Honestly, I do know nothing about composing but it amazes me how people can still come up with new melodies. Which might also be because a certain melody might have been forgotten already and only sounds fresh.

Apart from that I think that music has much more become about “sound” in the last century, it’s not so much about what is played but how and that is where sampling laws come in.

Which is exactly why there needs to be some sort of standardized fees for sampling Looza… perhaps with the ability for artists to let their record distributors know they’re not up for other people sampling their shit even for money. The fees could even be royalty based, which would make it that much more fair.

As for unwanted parties sampling your music… even with sampling being out of the question, there’s still nothing preventing anyone from performing cover versions your songs live in front of an audience as long as it doesn’t get recorded. There’s also nothing preventing them from parodying your tracks. Musicians deal with shit like that all the time… just ask anyone in the industrial scene about that one… all the school massacres being associated with bands like KMFDM just because the asshats pulling them off listened to them… must royally piss the bands off… and sadden them… but they keep making music. I mean hell, people’s work gets used for negative shit all the time… there’s no stopping that… look at the atom bomb.

But no, perhaps the world needs to stop it with this fair use bullshit. After all, how does the guy who invented the wheel feel, with us ripping him off constantly? Or the guy who invented drums back in the day… heck, has anyone bothered paying royalties to the composer who wrote happy birthday? … I’m sure whoever invented ASCII is mighty pissed off right now too… don’t forget all those people who invented English… they must want their share.

Sure I sound cold here… and if my songs got ripped by some asshole producer, I may try to sue… but I’d be more likely to request fair credit, some publicity, and a recording contract. After all, once my name hits the papers, and I’ve got the proper gear to make madness, my music will increase in quality, and spread much faster.

As for the drummer who pounded out the Amen, the fact is, he very well could have taken the break’s popularity as a chance to renew his career as a musician or to start a business based around drum loops… but he obviously didn’t… and his inaction was the cause of his lack of wealth, not the fact that he got ripped off. He would have been in the SAME POSITION if noone had ever used his beat. The fetishism of his break did nothing but cement his name in the history books, bring joy to producers and fans everywhere, and give him a renewed opportunity that he chose to miss. That’s the sad truth.

well, the fees are not standardized but I think there is some sort of “standard” all around.

If you have a track and want to clear the recording rights of a small sample the original artist can’t ask for 50k if all you need is a half hour of studiotime with a specific piece of gear to re-record the sound. They have to go below the price that is necessary to re-do it.

If you have a track that is nothing without that specific sample they could technically ask for 99.9% … the .1% is still more than you would get if you couldn’t use the sample at all (=nil). I read somewhere that it mostly maxes out at 80-90%.

And it also depends who wants to clear a sample, if madlib would come to my door asking to clear a sample I would let him do it for free (+ the obvious liner notes and a dinner), if someone else would come I would ask for some % … So it’s basically the same as your asshole-producer example.

About the other stuff :

The wheel : That is too long ago. No one knows if this guy wasn’t a hero in his tribe or something.

Happy Birthday : If you mean the Stevie Wonder-version, whoever got the copyright now (don’t know if it is Stevie but I hope), is doing a shitload of money. It is one of the most populars songs, so he deserves it.

ASCII: Thats different, this was most probably developed while at work for an employer, and that’s something you sign when you get an employment-contract : Whatever you do, it belongs to your employer. Maybe the guy got a promotion or something, I don’t know. Apart from that, ASCII has nothing to do with personality, art or soul, it is basically technical and clever (which I don’t mean negative or anything).

And the Amen-Drummer : He did not own the copyrights on this anyway, but still it’s an example.

Well … sampling overall is a great tool, and when I apply sampling i sample a single snare or a single note from a bassline maybe because i liked the fleshy sound of a certain Kick drum. Is that stealing as well? Could have found something similar or created the exact sound from scratch. Who knows and who cares.

When it comes to sampling longer chunks like and use them as loops i wouldn’t call that stealing either unless it’s too obvious, and for the Amen beat. I’d never use it straignt of in a song since it’s so well known I’d risk loosing my credability as a songwriter/producer and people might think. -“Can’t you come up with ur own shit?”
But that’s just a way of thinking. I personally hate using loops and most ones i got i chop them up and create my own stuff, not really caring about if my freshly baked beat sounds similar to another song, cuz i made it myself.

Hell I’m not even keen on using the sounds that comes with Reason factory sound bank. Cuz I’ve heard loads of songs using those samples and I’d hate myself if someone said to me. Ohhh isn’t that the sond from that soundbank… I dont even like using presets on softsynths. I might browse and find something close to what I’m after and fiddle with it.

Remixes then? Using the vocal track (wich also could be classified as a sample) doesnt genarally generate much stir. Hell, I really love good remixes. I like remakes, and sometimes I even like newer bands making newer version of old songs.

The thing is - EVERYBODY is so friggin greedy they would sell their own mom if they could. I’m not saying everything should be free for anyone and take and use however they like but i do agree with byte smasher that some honesty or credit comes a long way, and artists between that’s usually never an issue. Musk lovers like artists producers and musicians likes crediting eachother for their work or inspiration but corparate byachhes loves money and doesnt give a damn about anything else.

That actually happened to me once…

Quote from: Sector7seven on Wik

Lucklily the song was already registered with STIM the Swedish version of ASCAP, so we ended up getting some money from the tour, but we never even considered sueing someone over that. We were already to well known by then on the internet so no real harm done. and the funny thing was that people i knew actually called my from across the country saying they just saw my song being performed on a local club. They said it was cool and congratulated me on getting our song heard.

Copyright is supposed to protect the material but once it’s public it’s public. There’s nothing you can do about anything and sueing people is just the american way of making money spending years in negatiations, rather letting it go, forget about it, shut up, write some new shit and learn from your misstakes. Nothing good ever comes out of legal disputes. It’s just time consuming costly and annoying and should only be considered if someone totally ripped someone off, claiming it theirs withoout a single honorary mention or credit.

Cover bands never play unknown songs or ripp someone off… they always credit the creators. Remixers never claim a remix to be their song. Usually their name appears efter the original title. People who does remakes or covers based on samples or whatever generally pays what it costs to release the song in their own name. But WHY??? argue about a tiny lil sample that’s hardly recognizable, or even noticed in the full production. If someone uses a sample that is an obvious ripp off and wants to release that song someone will certanly find out sooner or later.

So my advice. If you HAVE to use samples and want to get away with it to get that special “sound”, then process it and temper with it to the point where it’s no longer recognizable. Then you can call it your own. Don’t be lazy, make ur own shit or don’t be stingy and pay what it costs to use someone elses stuff.


Recording rights violations is BS! Don’t worry about it. Sample away and smile cuz if no-one can hear the difference and if you actually made ur own melodies from those samples not ripping the melody off then you’re home free. Stealing melodies is another thing and samples that someone probably would recognize, then shame on you, unless you’re paying for it.

i think that stuff with between Tempest/GRG & Timbaland said it all.

stealing samples, if like stealing words from a dictionary.