Sampling Law And Reality

Now, as someone who occasionally samples, or remixes a track… I want to start an open discussion about not only the legality of sampling and remixing… but also about the reality of these laws, and how they’re enforced.

A few questions for y’all:
Do you think there should be a simpler, fairer system for clearing samples? If so, please let us in on your master plan :)

I basically have set one rule for myself about sampling: put it out of context. For one, to protect my own creativity and second, because it often makes a sampled something unrecognizable.

To answer your first question:
“Do you know anyone who has been sued for sampling or remixing? If so, was it a commercial release, or was it just something released for free in the public domain?”

There have been many cases. To name but a few from memory;
-Afrika Bambaata sampling Kraftwerk:

-The Prodigy sampling The Art Of Noise in the track Firestarter (‘hey, hey, hey!’)
Afaik, they were sued by The Art Of Noise and ended up making nothing on the track.

-I remember also a case involving CJ Bolland and his track “Sugar Is Sweeter” - as I can remember, he was sued by The Prodigy because of strong similarities to their song “Poison”



for free


no, but i also wonder what the actual advantage of doing so is.

yep. i think there should be, but unfortunately i do not have a master plan :)

But sometimes the entire point of using a sample is for the recognizability factor… whether to make a social statement, or to tip your hat to a favourite artist. The questions should not be “should sampling be allowed” or “how can we get away with it without being noticed” but rather “how do we make it so sampling is easier on the original creator and the sampler” and “how can we make sure there is no question as to whether or not you can use any given sample, given proper credit (whatever that may be)” … or even “should there be a set (opt-out) per-second fee for sampling all commercial audio/video”?

my master plan is:
if they mess with me, even just a little bit; i’ll use the earth’s beautiful magnetic field to pick out, recieve and command fleets of guided white hot metal asteroid goo from space to smash their whole continent(s).

Interesting you bring this one up … it’s not a sampling case… Planet Rock actually re-performed all the elements taken from the Kraftwerk songs. Kraftwerk did seek recourse… but it was settled out of court.

Prodigy definitely sampled Close to the Edit… however, I can’t find reference to that case… got any linkage?

As for the CJ Bolland track… another non-sampling case… (might be considered a cover song?)… can’t find reference to a legal case there either… and it doesn’t seem like the tracks would even be similar enough… the syncopation is similar, that’s about it.

… in regards to my question though, I meant personally. Chances are, most of the members of this community know enough musicians that sample to perhaps know at least one that’s been affected legally by copyright law… or at least, one would think… but then, perhaps the industry is fine with simply using scare tactics, and hitting the big money targets ;)

This one is a classic:

I think sampling should be - under any circumstance - credited to the original artist, if:
the sample is so essential to the feel of your song that it would be uninteresting if it wasn’t there. and after all, if that’s the case, you would probably be in big trouble if it was released commercially without clearance.

but if the sample is so twisted that you’d have to be Audio Rainman to recognize it, I’d take the chance :) my impression is that the clearance process is quite bothersome, always delays the release of the tunes, lots of paperwork I guess, etc etc

hm, but how does it work if you release a track for free, containing uncleared and obvious samples, and it becomes a big hit “online”? I mean, have already then done wrong? or is it the moment when a dj at club spins your track? I guess this is where “white label” releases has its origin… but still, if you sell 10.000 copies of a white label vinyl, you HAVE earned on others work. so how do you get away with white label releases. is it by using an alias that you never ever in the future can reveal was you? hehe, that could be hard these days.

If you’re not in the charts with your ‘sampled’ music , don’t worry!

Oh yeah, sorry about that :P
Unfortunately I couldn’t find any links to these cases, only some quotes from various blogs and such.

Sampling, is an area (along with a few others) where I’m happy to have one law for me, one for other people.
I know I’m going to treat other people’s songs and samples well, and not just going to lift a bass line directly from a song I like, but that doesn’t mean everybody would.

so i guess I think, the laws need to be there to stop people that would use other people’s stuff badly, but I’ve got no problem with disobeying them.

And no, I don’t know anybody that’s been sued.

Not personally do I know anyone, but a related story: A commercially successful Australian artist who is in the minor leagues of the alt-pop world had a few commercial releases with bucked loads of vinyl sampling (all from esoteric sources) and didn’t seem to go through ‘clearance entanglements’ - BUT - later on this artist became popular enough to fund commercial ventures in the UK and to a lesser extent the US, with much attention given to legal sample clearance. I’ll let you know if this artist gets sued, but it seems to fit the mold of the more commercial attention a work gets the more transparent is has to be legally.

No, as I have no made any commercial releases with samples of that nature. I’ve made a few songs/remixes with major components sampled from other artists/recordings and in those cases I’ve done two things: 1. Given the music away for free, 2. Gave proper credit and respect to the sampled source. In one case I tried to contact the artist to converse with them on the matter but they did not respond for whatever reason.

All my released work has been free and unbound by any legal contract. I’ve attempted to sell FLAC files of my last album but only a handful of people bought them. That material in question probably contained drum sounds that were made/recorded by other people.

No, but I could take it on as my responsibility to find such a resource. My general understand of copyright law is that the more money you have the more clout you have in court and it all has very little to do with justice and fairness (just my opinion).

Yes. Like many of us here I’ve partaken in the NIN remix community project and had fun with that. AFAIK those were under Share and Share Alike licensing and I’ve shared my work for free with attribution.

Yes I do! All my recent major releases have been released under Share and Share Alike. My attitude to this is pretty relaxed - I really don’t mind if other people sample my work and use it in their own work, even if it is not attributed (although that would be nice). This attitude wouldn’t alter if I were making a truck load of money from sales (as if that will happen anyway). The CC system seems more in keeping with my personal ideals about creative content and perceptions on fairness and makes a nice contrast to the legalistic terrorism we’ve seen in the music industry over the years. The more of us that adopt the CC system the more collective legitimacy it will have.

Yes I think there should be a fairer system, but I don’t see into coming into fruition beyond the current CC alternative. This ties to grander debates: how to stop greed? How to stop narrow-mindedness? Etc… We live in interesting times. Those who work against us haven’t accepted the innate will of music to be free. Commodification is a corruption, and at best a dubious compromise. Certainly a reality check is needed for some if not most involved in marketing and the legalities of music. They can be high and mighty as they like but people on the street will always find a way to defy them.

You are but a lowly serf!!! BOW BEFORE THY MASTER! ^_^

This is the problem… this is why I started this thread… to discuss possible solutions

Not to mention the marketing opportunities of free musics. Now, the only thing we need is a torrent seeding network for creative commons works… to make people THINK they’re pirating music :P

Well, whether or not one’s hard work and creations should be given away for free is a highly personal matter… and something we need to discuss more as a society… however, in the meantime, perhaps a system which allows a fixed charge for samples… $1/second for any sample from any song … that kinda thing… might help make things significantly easier on the artists. I think the only thing stopping this from occurring is that the record industry likes to be able to randomly sue people… to inspire fear and delegitimatize forms of music they don’t support, increasing their own market share.

Acts like The Prodigy, Amon Tobin and Meat Beat Manifesto are build around sampling,
but I believe the artist is responsible for the samples he uses. Sampling is all cool by me,
but just imagine the drummer of Winston Brothers hating each and every track that uses
the sped up drumloop. That has nothing to do with tipping your hat to a favourite artist.
There’s no right or wrong, except for the law. I simply responded to your statement, not
caring whatever point one may have when sampling some other artist. What other point is
there but music? Money? Not on this forum.

I don’t have a point with this post, by the way.

planet-mu seems like a reasonable big boy and they’ve never been sued have they?

if planet mu music gets into top of the pops, then they’ll worry about the samples used by their artists (shitmat anybody :slight_smile: ). 2000-3000 units sold worldwide per release won’t get sampleclearing firms attention. The cost probably don’t weigh up against possible gains.

Well that’s always the biggest fear: Becoming so popular so fast that you get the pants sued off you… if we had some easy way to clear the plethora of samples we’re using, it wouldn’t be an issue though. Hell, there could even be a website that you upload your “unknown” sample to and it compares its FFT curves against a database of popular known samples to see if it’s in there. I really have to wonder why this hasn’t been done already.