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Is music sampling legal?

On Behalf of | Jan 24, 2024 | Entertainment Law |

Given the wealth of songs and melodies in existence, composing a truly unique piece can be a demanding task. Music sampling offers a way to refresh the many musical creations available today. While some may question its ethics or regard it as plagiarism, sampling is a completely legal way of producing new music when done right.

Gain sample clearance to avoid copyright infringement

The term “sampling” refers to the practice of reworking a portion of an existing track to produce a new musical composition. Thanks to adjustments in speed, pitch or other characteristics, many sampled music used to make today’s hits are barely recognizable.

As a songwriter, composer or an artist trying to break into the industry, you might be curious about how to incorporate samples into your music legally.

Before you can use a sample, you’d need to obtain clearances from both the music publisher and the record label that owns the master recording. Otherwise, you could face an injunction preventing you from using the sample altogether or be subject to financial penalties.

However, securing permissions is far from easy. Tracing the publisher and owner of the master recording owner can feel like a scavenger hunt. You’d also need to persuade them to grant you clearance. Be prepared with the possibility that publishers could say no to your request or insist on receiving payment.

Don’t lose hope if sample clearance isn’t granted

If you do not obtain the right permissions, you can still pursue other options. You could reach out to the artist directly if they hold significant influence over their music, use compositions that are available in the public domain or seek out publishers willing to have their music sampled.

However, if you have your heart set on a particular track, prepare to take the long road of obtaining sampling clearance. Music sampling is not a shortcut, it demands dedication. Seeking the guidance of a professional with experience in the entertainment business could help you steer clear of costly legal pitfalls.