Plagiarism: are cover and remixes plagiarisms? Do you need a special license to publish your cover?
If a musician wants to publish the work of another in his own interpretation or in edited form, he usually has to acquire the necessary rights first:
A cover is a new edition of a piece of music. If lyrics and melody remain the same, musicians have to pay royalties. It does not matter if other instruments are used or if the melody is sung in a different voice pitch than in the original.
In the case of extensive changes to the melody and/or lyrics of the piece of music and if the original work is still clearly recognizable, the consent of the composer is required and a license agreement must be signed.
In a remix, the song is remixed or given new instrumentation. Here, too, the following applies: If the original work is still recognizable, usage rights must be acquired.
If a piece of music is changed in such a way that it is hardly recognizable, it may be used without the consent of the author. This is called “free use”. In practice, however, there is hardly any free use of musical works.
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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.