Sampling ruling: eugh sets narrow limits for sound copiers

Sampling ruling: eugh sets narrow limits for sound copiers

Bang-dange-dang-dang: for 20 years, electro music pioneers from the dusseldorf group kraftwerk have been arguing with pop music producer moses pelham over this two-second sound snippet.

Now the european court of justice has dealt with the matter and set narrow limits to the copying of music sequences, the so-called sampling. Even the use of very short snippets of music from third-party sound carriers requires consent, the court of justice ruled in luxembourg on monday.

However, the judges allowed one exception: the use of a sequence in a different and unrecognizable form is not a quotation of the original work. Thus the rights of the owners of the original work were not violated either. This could apply to the case, but now the federal court of justice has to decide this.

Moses pelham and his lawyers promptly chalked up monday’s ruling as a victory for themselves. Now there is the longed-for legally secure sampling. This clears the way for the federal court of justice to finally reject kraftwerk’s lawsuit from 1998. The federal court of justice (BGH) had recently suspended the proceedings and referred a number of questions to the european court of justice. He has now received the answers.

"A large part of pop music – especially in the 90s – would have been inconceivable without sampling as a form of artistic interaction with other works. The decision is an important strengthening of artistic freedom," says pelham.

Kraftwerk, represented by attorney hermann lindhorst, also feels that it has won this stage of the proceedings. "We are quite confident that the federal court of justice will rule in our favor," he said. Kraftwerk founder ralf hutter said it was about protecting artistic works from commercial exploitation.

The dispute is over a rhythm from the 1977 kraftwerk piece "metal on metal". Pelham had put the sequence in 1997 without permission in an endless loop under the song "nur mir" by the rapper sabrina setlur, but digitally slowed down a bit.

Kraftwerk co-founder ralf hutter saw himself robbed of his beat and sued. It began a dispute that has lasted for more than 20 years. The dispute has fundamental significance for the music industry, because sampling is ubiquitous in hip-hop and rap.

The federal constitutional court had overturned the ban on the setlur song in 2016. The decision was celebrated as a victory for artistic freedom. But recently, the EU attorney general, as an important expert, had strengthened the copyright position and thus kraftwerk. Rights holders always had to be asked for permission before sampling. This does not violate the freedom of art. "The european court of justice did not dare to follow the attorney general’s line," lindhorst now conceded. "But we are still quite confident."

The question now will be what the federal court of justice considers recognizable and what not. And from when a sequence may be considered changed. Without a specific comparison, few people would have noticed a similarity between the setlur song and the kraftwerk song, according to berlin copyright expert fabian seip (hengeler mueller).

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