Samples & Copyright

A lot of electronic music producers use samples from pop songs, movies, another electronic tracks, tv, etc. One can find such tracks even on commercial releases. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much about this topic on the Internet, but, seriously, I just cannot believe, that such producers (especially, underground artists from the breakcore, gabber, hardcore scenes) have a written permission from the originator of each used sample. It is so unbelievable, because I assume that it would take months/years to get all the authorizations and/or even agreements about possible profit for the originator etc, etc…

But, on the other hand, it is also unbelievable, that most of such songs are released illegally.

There are many producers on this board, can somebody explain me the way it works?

Many thanks in advance!

I’m not a producer but it looks more like your status determines whether you can pull such a trick off and use someone else’s samples for free.
In theory an amount samples created by anyone are simply copyrighted.
In practice nobody bothers to check out someone’s song if it uses copyrighted samples because they are harder to extract from the song if the sample totally blends in the environment.

And if they would in some case nothing more happens than some rage and fury in the media but no financial consequences are connected.

The more recent Timbaland scandal is a very good example (which was also a very hot topic on this board):

all music is a rip off - using samples is on a par with releasing a cover version
whether it is authorised or not is totally irrelevant.

i like to nick subs off dillinja, and dj producer steals hellfish beats - girl/boy bands re-release old 60’s hits and rock bands rob each others riffs

i think the general rule is - if you are using an obvious copyrighted sample / tune etc and are making money from it - then you will probably get moaned at.

if you are not making any moolah then do what you like because no one cares…


I’d say if you don’t plan on selling the music and just want people to download your music, use whatever samples that will sound great in your track(s). If you’re trying to sell your tracks it by yourself, that’s on you, you could get in trouble if it’s a top download. But yeah, other than that, if it sounds like certain samples should be in your tracks, I say have fun and keep those tracks free for download. If a big label picks you up, let them go and get the licenses if they want to sell anything that contains other copyrighted snippets.

Trust me if one or more big labels wants to pick you up, it simply means the time has come to sell your new stuff online since that means that you have good enough potential to bring in money.
And if you are smart and want to gain the most of that profit, you’ld rather sell that stuff on your own as an independent artist rather than getting yourself involved in some kind of prestige contract.

If you’re picked up by a big label, you get access to a network bigger than your hometown, so much media exposure that Japanese Schoolgirls will be lining up to do you, not to mention a rockstar lifestyle. You’d have to be either VERY breakcore or VERY stupid (though it’s almost the same) to deny yourself and your children that.

Sample clearance is so difficult and so much of a long process that nobody independent bothers… and sometimes one gets hit with a lawsuit. The laws are f****ed up, therefore, nothing’s going to change any time soon.

What we NEED is a standardized sampling fee, somewhat like the standard fee you can pay for recording a cover version. It would work as follows: sample a song, fill out an application stating what artist/album/song you sampled it from, at which point in the song… perhaps provide a CD with the sample on it… and pay a fee based on how many seconds the sample is. It could be $2/sec or $200/sec … as long as it’s standardized and people KNOW what they’ll be paying as they create the music. That way people wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they could get the sample cleared… the recording associations would simply give the original artists their share of the money.

… it could even be a percentage of profit on the song… just make it STANDARDIZED!!! ;)

i lol’d

The problem is that from any profitable revenue from your actions regarding your band, your contract probably oblige you to provide 80 to 95 percent of that revenue to the label (if not more).
So for each 100 Japanese schoolgirls that want to do you, 80 to 95 end up in the penthouses of your manager and the managers and executives of him.
And i heard of contracts that only supply you and your bandmembers 2 percent from the total revenue or even less and that you will have to do with royalties only.
Though usually such companies are still nice enough to cover all your expenses regarding your activities but some even don’t do that for you.

My point was, that being picked up by a big label, gets you more than moneyproblems.
Especially when you’re solo. No Japanese schoolgirl would want to do your manager.

Whoring managers, selling your soul: €250.000
Lawyers and lawsuits, clearing samples: €500.000
Groupies, cocaïne and broken beats: Priceless!

great explanation of the whole “clearing” thing :