Is sampling music legal?
When a musician samples, he takes fragments from other people’s songs. Does he thereby violate copyright or is that freedom of art? The BGH has decided. Here an overview of the legal dispute from an article of the German https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/bgh-urheberrecht-101.html). In music, sampling refers to the process of using a part of an – already finished – sound or music recording in a new, often musical context. Nowadays, this is usually done with a hardware or software sampler, i.e., the selected sound sample is usually digitized and stored so that it can be further processed with audio programs.
Why have they been arguing about this in court for years? A german rapper, singer and music producer thinks to this day that he was allowed to simply take the “music snippet” into his song. Legally, the issue is the conflict between artistic freedom and the rights one has as a producer of a sound carrier. These are the so-called copyrights and ancillary copyrights: “The author of a sound record has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute and make the sound carrier available to the public,” the Copyright Act states.
What can we now expect from the BGH’s ruling? With its decision, the BGH must implement the guidelines of the ECJ judges. After hearing the case in January, it does not look like the judges in Karlsruhe will simply “wave through” the rapper´s sampling. So the question remains whether the artistic sound sequence in the song is recognizable or not. To have this clarified, the BGH could refer the case back to the Hamburg Higher Regional Court. If Pelham loses, the case could even go back to the Federal Constitutional Court. After all, he won there in 2016. Either way, the principles laid down by the courts affect the hip-hop and music scene as a whole.
Musician, artists, writers: you know who to call. Horak Attorneys at law: your international law firm for music law.