Controversial Ruling On Sampling Involves P-Funk


A Federal Appeals Court in Cincinnati ruled that “If you cannot pirate the whole sound recording, can you ‘lift’ or ‘sample’ something less than the whole? Our answer to that question is in the negative. Get a license or do not sample.”

This alone doesn’t seem that controversial — most fans and artists agree that if the sample is recognizable the owner of the original copyright should be compensated. It gets more interesting when you look at the details of the case.



Originally based on a 1970’s Funkadelic sample in a late 80’s NWA song, the sample itself is less than 2 seconds, had it’s pitch altered, and is looped and extended far beyond the short P-Funk riff. In this particular case you might still feel the sample is illegal, but the ramifications of this ruling (if it stands) is that no one will be able to legally use any pre-existing recorded sound *of any length* without license, making just about every working producer a criminal.

Grabbing tones from other recordings (especially drums) to put into a sequencer/sampler is the way modern music of all styles is made. Are the courts saying you can sue someone claiming they used the same snare sound as you?

Read more at Billboard and leave your thoughts.