CMU’s Setlist podcast is running a fantastic series of shows on the ‘Top Ten Legal Battles’ in the music industry. The latest episode is about a European court’s recent judgment over a two-second sample from Kraftwerk’s “Metall auf Metall”. As I’ve covered on the blog, the defendant lost. It’s all quite fascinating, and the podcast covers the ins-and-outs. The hosts also include a short history of sampling litigation and an easy-to-follow explanation of the rights in play. Check it out:
The unsuccessful lawsuit over a short horn sample in Madonna’s “Vogue” is discussed in the history section. The hosts remark that the publisher for the sampled artist — The Salsoul Orchestra — used ‘new technology’ to identify the short sample. I would make a bet this technology is the website whosampled.com. Rights-owners often consult this site to find who sampled their artists. I speak from experience — someone once contacted me regarding one of my sneaky samples, revealed to the sampled artist’s publisher via that site.
In other sampling news, CMU also recently covered Drake successfully arguing fair use for one of his samples. The sampled artist was Jimmy Smith, with a snippet appearing in Drake’s “Pound Cake.” It’s a sample of a spoken word bit from 1982’s “Jimmy Smith Rap” where Jimmy states that “jazz is the only real music that’s going to last, all that other bullshit is here today and gone tomorrow, but jazz is, was and always will be.”
The case is curious because Drake cleared the recording — usually the only requirement in sample clearance — but Smith’s estate argues that he should have cleared the ‘lyrics’ as well. So, Drake went for a fair use defense for his appropriation of the lyrics.
I’ve written before how fair use is a tricky argument. There aren’t any set-in-stone conditions that qualify for fair use, but there are some loose guidelines. In the end, it’s left to the opinion of the court. And surprisingly (to me), the court ruled in Drake’s favor.
In the words of the Second Circuit: “The message of the ‘Jimmy Smith Rap’ is one about the supremacy of jazz to the derogation of other types of music, which – unlike jazz – will not last. On the other hand, ‘Pound Cake’ sends a counter message – that it is not jazz music that reigns supreme, but rather all ‘real music’, regardless of genre”.
The court goes on: “‘Pound Cake’ criticises the jazz-elitism that the ‘Jimmy Smith Rap’ espouses. By doing so, it uses the copyrighted work for ‘a purpose, or imbues it with a character, different from that for which it was created’”. Which, the judges reckon, is sufficient to constitute fair use.
That’s a coherent and straight-forward opinion. But I still feel the ruling could have gone either way. As I’ve said before if you’re going to argue fair use then be ready to defend that in court. And keep your fingers firmly crossed.
🔗→ Artist News Business News Labels & Publishers Legal Setlist Setlist: Top ten legal battles – The Kraftwerk sampling case
🔗→ US appeals court rules that Drake’s Jimmy Smith sample is definitely fair use