German court allows music sampling for hip-hop producer

Tue May 31, 2016 8:56am EDT
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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's Constitutional Court handed a defeat to electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk on Tuesday by ruling that a hip-hop artist can sample a two-second beat from a band's tracks without infringing copyright.

The ruling, which overturns an earlier decision by the Federal Court of Justice and is widely seen as setting a precedent in Germany, addresses the complex legal issue of the competing interests of artistic freedom and copyright.

The court, based in Karlsruhe in south-western Germany, said the sequences were only seconds long and "led to the creation of a totally new and independent piece of work".

"The economic value of the original sound was therefore not diminished," the court said, adding that banning sampling would in effect spell the end of some music styles.

"The hip-hop music style lives by using such sound sequences and would not survive if it were banned."

The ruling is a blow for Kraftwerk singer Ralf Huetter who argued his copyright had been breached by producer Moses Pelham in the song "Nur Mir", German for "Only for Me", sung by rapper Sabrina Setlur, who is also known for her short relationship with former tennis star Boris Becker.

The two-second beat sequence originally came from Kraftwerk's track "Metall auf Metall", or "Metal on Metal", is repeated in the song.

Sampling is a tricky legal area and several famous singers have been accused of stealing song ideas from original composers.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; editing by Ralph Boulton)

General view of exterior of Germany's Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, Germany, March 15, 2016, during a two-day hearing about Germany's decision to shut down all nuclear plants by 2022.  REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski