Kraftwerk have won a legal battle that’s been running for 20 years, based on their 1999 case against a track that sampled their song ‘Metall auf Metall’.

The Court of Justice of the European Union finally ruled yesterday that “sampling without authorisation can infringe a phonogram producer’s rights” – even if the sample is very short (two seconds in the case of the track in question: ‘Nur Mir’ by Sabrina Setlur, produced by Moses Pelham and Martin Haas. However, a sound sample that’s been modified enough to be “unrecognisable” does not infringe those rights, the court ruled.

You can read the full ruling here for the legal ins and outs. Music lawyers are already discussing the implications. “There is no European-wide definition of what a ‘sample’ is, nor, until this case, were there clear guiding principles about what extent and nature of use of a copyrighted work could be said to be infringing,” said Raffaella De Santis of Harbottle & Lewis, in a statement. “We now have guidance that sampling even a very short sequence from a sound recording may in principle be infringing, unless it is modified in a way which makes unidentifiable. While this is welcome clarification for rights owners, it could have a chilling effect on artistic expression in an increasingly remix culture.”

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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