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Kraftwerk hit by music sample copyright defeat

Written by Ellis Sweetenham on 01 June 2016

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Electronic music band, Kraftwerk, have been hit with a blow after Germany’s constitutional court has ruled that they could not use copyright protection to prevent another music artist from sampling a two-second clip from one of their songs.

Previously it had been held by the Federal Court of Justice that the producer, Moses Pelham, had infringed the copyright on the band’s song ‘Metall auf Metall’ by using a two second beat sequence repeatedly in the song ‘Nur Mir’, sung by the rapper Sabrina Setlur.

The decision was overturned, however, with the court stating that as the clip was only seconds long, its use “led to the creation of a totally new and independent piece of work”. The court also held that the sampling had not diminished the economic value of the original sound.

Sampling has become a major issue over recent years which a number of high profile artists hit with claims that parts of global hits were taken from other artist’s works. The most well-known case of late involved Robin Thicke and Pharrell William’s use of a sample from the Marvin Gaye song ‘Got to Give it Up’ in their smash hit, ‘Blurred Lines’. This led to a huge pay-out of damages to Gaye’s estate for copyright infringement. There are other cases in the pipeline including one involving an accusation made against Justin Bieber and his song ‘Sorry’.

It will be interesting to see how these cases develop to establish whether a pattern emerges in relation to the favouring of the accused usually a well-known star or the effected, a relatively unknown entity.
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