The “Sampling” Debate Gets a Little Clarification

Okay, so I’m a few days behind on this — I’ve been busy.

The Ninth Circuit’s making news again (though with the exception of a premium-content Los Angeles Times story, I can’t find any other outlets picking it up). This time they’ve ruled that the Beastie Boys’ sampling of a three-note riff does not constitute copyright infringement. In this particular case, the rights to the recording of the song in question were legitimately licensed, but the rights to the James Newton’s original composition were not (see, this is why products like Soundtrack are becoming more and more necessary — music licensing is a nightmare).

Now, as I’ve said, I’m not generally a fan of “sampling.” But I think this ruling is probably the right way to go — in this case, the amount sampled (about six seconds’ worth) is what the court considered de minimis, not to mention the fact that the use of the performance was authorized. What this means going forward is that sampling is not automatically a copyright violation. Where I personally find this relevant is in cases where corporate behemoths try to silence criticism by attacking the use of copyrighted material in the body of such criticism. (Are you listening, Microsoft?) Power to the people (or something along those lines)!

Creative Commons has their own take on the ruling as well (along with a PDF copy of the ruling itself). Since my content here at Prometheus Unleashed is posted under a Creative Commons license, I think it only fair to showcase their interpretation.


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