Legality of Samples
- This topic has 8 replies, 7 voices, and was last updated 3 years, 3 months ago by ,P Sullivan.
2016-05-05 at 19:50:17 #13371,GruffParticipant
Great vid by Foreign Concept this month, digged the insight into things outside the DAW! One thing I keep wondering though is how do you clear those samples? Like the acapellas and youtube rips.. I think I must be misunderstanding the process as I’ve see a bunch of big names using samples ripped from youtube in tuts but surely as an established artist it gets a bit risky when people are buying your tunes? I understand royalty free and referencing artists with their permission but there’s a grey area of sampling that I still don’t get.. Can anyone shed some light?
2016-05-09 at 17:45:45 #13415,GENIE HQKeymaster
We’d need to look into this and will also ask foreign concept about it, but as far as we know there is law in music that means you can only be prosecuted for the amount of money you have made from the track. So aside from major Radio play, or commercial release, the big name singers are unlikely to track down the producer of a D&B Track, even if it’s an underground killer..
Survey’s latest release on Noisia’s label ‘Invisible’ features a very blatant sample of Marvin Gaye.. so even at that level it still seems to be used. Although the fact Marvin is dead may change things, but even then someone still owns the rights to that music..
The other thing to mention is that you resample, pitch, process it so it sounds less like the original 😀
Will see if we can get some more advice on this for you…
2016-05-11 at 22:01:32 #13443,GruffParticipant
thanks for the reply! some helpful points there. Twisting warping and layering samples away from their original state is something i’m sure we’re all familiar with for ‘originality’ but that’s the stumbling block I always hit with vocals as more often than not you want them to retain that original character/killer sound. Maybe i’m over cautious..
Any more advice’d be great thanks!
2016-05-12 at 06:51:23 #13445,SGAGParticipant
This is also something I’m interested in and would like some more elaboration on. Haven’t really seen any good discussion of it elsewhere.
2016-05-13 at 21:24:06 #13457,Foreign ConceptParticipant
Glad you enjoyed to the tutorial. I’m certainly no expert on the legal side of usage and clearance but it’s cropped up a few times in the past for me so this is merely my understanding of it.
First of all I think Gruff hit the nail on the head with it being a “grey area”.
By the letter of the law it is illegal to commercially sell a track that contains unlicensed samples, unless they adhere to what’s called a “fair use doctrine”, so effectively masked samples that your average listener wouldn’t be able to spot the original source.
So due to the subjective nature of what constitutes “masked”, that becomes your primary overriding grey area. Further to that, it’s not just straight sampling that it applies to, it’s reproduction as well. Prime example is the recent “Marvin Gaye’s family v Pharrell case”, where the former got a pay out of something like $7m for convincing a jury that the latter’s Blurred Lines song ripped off a Gaye track. I can’t hear it personally but there you go.
On a side note, in regards to the Genie point about the Invisible track that samples Gaye, they changed the law in the 80s I think, and it’s now something like – year of artists death + 70 years before it becomes public domain. So Survey will be waiting another 30 years before he can use that sample legally!
With respect to independent labels (talking dnb here), it really comes down to the prerogative of the label owner/distributor. I guess the main factors are
1) How obvious is the sample, not just in terms of the way it’s used but the actual sample itself. As a comparison think Ivy Lab – Twenty Questions, which pretty much features a whole sampled vocal but from a largely unknown singer compared to someone like Survey’s Marvin Gaye sample.
2) How big is the record likely to be. Most dnb releases have a limited reach in the grand scheme of things, and it’s pretty unlikely a major label is going to hear the track.
Which I guess ties into point 3) – Is a major label going to bother going after money from a small independent label that’s only sold a small amount of units. The legal fees alone are likely to be much higher then your average dnb track generates from sales.
I’ve never cleared a sample, and I’m fairly certain nothing on Critical has been cleared in the past. I know that one of the big dnb labels, (I won’t say their name but you might go there if you’re ill) now has to clear all samples because of their size, reputation and business model. Now (and this is purely subjective), I think that’s a big reason why their musical output went downhill massively about 5 years ago. All of their core artists who were making amazing sample based music now were forced to try and get the same vibe/quality without using samples. That’s why producer x (named after a camera filter type) went from all this wicked musical output, to really unimaginative big synth led riff tracks. Again, just my opinion, some people like that stuff!
Another example would be Sigma’s recent number one single (Nobody to love) which heavily sampled (almost to the point of bootlegging a kanye west track). I don’t know for sure but I’d imagine they either pre cleared the sample, or at some point handed over the sales revenue to Kanye’s label when they inevitably come knocking. (In fact I just looked it up and they gave it away free so no money would have been owed).
Which ties me into my last point. My impression is a lot of producers (and some labels) are veering towards the mind set of not caring about using samples even if they have to give up sales revenue.
Simply because the way the music industry is built now, particularly in dance music is that an artists living isn’t really made from record sales anymore due to low sales/no vinyl/sharing etc.., it’s made from live performance/DJing. So to use the Sigma example, albeit an exaggerated one, if they don’t make any money from the sales of their number one single, it’s no issue for them as the fact they have a large record means extra shows/big festivals equating in a much higher revenue stream.
Hope I haven’t rambled too much, clearly didn’t have much going on this evening
2016-05-15 at 02:55:37 #13478,HarryParticipant
Good points, and yeah, a noticeable shift in the “sound” of the larger label, although I wonder if their sublabel has to adhere to the same governance.
Here’s the “20 Questions” sample source:
And as someone who loves a good sample flip, and has sampled nearly their entire record & CD collection, I think using samples can push ideas. Sometimes the sample doesn’t even end up in the track, you end up writing a bunch of other ideas to compliment the sample, then you realize when you mute the sample everything else is working great. Have fun, don’t worry about legality, just keep writing.
"Knowledge kept is knowledge lost." - Bobbito Garcia
2016-05-15 at 21:47:43 #13488,GruffParticipant
Thanks once again for the depth Matt! Really helpful. Literally just filled in all the blanks to the questions I had. Time to get bootlegging!
2018-07-08 at 09:53:03 #47134,Urban_HostileParticipant
Really informative thread, thanks guys 😀
2020-12-03 at 01:20:28 #181825,P SullivanParticipant
it’s not the illegality that precludes the majority of producers who use uncleared samples from being sued by the owner of the copyright in the sample (often a company, not an individual), but as your man says – the cost, time and negative publicity that taking them to court takes. there will also be plenty of instances of copyright owners threatening litigation, the claim settling privately without proceedings issuing, and a confidentiality clause in the settlement to make sure you never hear about it.
CDPA 1988 sets out the relevant durations of copyright for any works governed by English law. FC is correct that its currently death + 70 in the UK for music
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