A federal appeals court in Cincinnati, Ohio ruled yesterday (Sept. 7) that artists should
pay for every sample included in their work, a ruling that could have an effect
on Hip-Hop music, which often utilizes pieces of other copyrighted works.
A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said that federal laws
passed to curb piracy of digital recordings applies to digital sampling.
“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,” the court said in a statement.
It has been legal to use short musical snippets as long as the work sampled
was not identifiable.
“Get a license or do not sample,” the court continued. “We
do not see this as stifling creativity in any significant way.”
The case is one of 800 lawsuits filed by Bridgeport Music and Westbound Records
Bridgeport and Westbound own the rights to many recordings, including those
of George Clinton and the influential groups Funkadelic and Parliament. A two
second sample of a Funkadelic record in NWA’s "100 Miles and Runnin"
is at the heart of the ruling made by the judges Tuesday.
The song was used in the movie "I Got the Hookup," produced by Master
P.’s No Limit Films.
As a result, Bridgeport took No Limit Films to court, saying that using the
NWA song in the film without clearing the sample violated copyright laws.
Clinton himself was not opposed to sampling. He produced two albums, Sample
Some of Dis and Sample Some of Dat, which allowed artists to use
Clinton’s music without legal scrutiny.
Well, first of all, I suspect
that the industry again is trying to do to rap what they tried to do to funk,
and that’s kill it because it’s got to much information, and spreading of information,”
Clinton told the Houston Press in 1992. “So what we’ve done to keep them
from all this stupidity, like trying to sue, or saying that I’m suing people,
is to put out a record called "Sample Some of Disc and Sample Some of Dat"
– just samples from alot of the old songs, because I have some of the demos
of those songs, which is not what the record company owns, so I can license
those to be sampled. We have a pay schedule that’s really easy to deal with
– if they sell records, they pay, if they don’t they can try again. We got to
make sure that rap survives, because it’s our only means of communication that
gets past the gatekeepers.”