Music Sampling is the process of taking one part of a pre-existing sound recording, and reusing it in the creation of a new sound recording. An example of sampling would be to take part of a guitar solo from a Beatles song, and use it as part of the chorus in a modern hip hop song.

How Does Copyright Play a Role in Music Sampling?

Music sampling typically involves the use of previously copyrighted works. In many cases, the point of sampling is for listeners to recognize the recording that is actually being sampled. The use of these generally recognizable samples warrants both the consent and compensation of the original copyright owner.

Does Owning a CD of the Original Artist Allow Sampling of their Work?

Owning a copy of the music itself, in any physical form, does NOT constitute ownership of the music’s corresponding copyright. Having a copy of a song only encompasses ownership rights relating to personal use. In other words, while a person can play a song however they’d like at home, they cannot copy the song for neighbors or play the CD for public audiences.

What Is the Process for Gaining the Right to Sample Music?

When dealing with songs and other musical recordings, there are typically two types of copyrights one must deal with. First, there is the copyright for composition. Composition includes the original writing and arrangement of the song. Second, there is the copyright for the sound recording. Sound recording deals with the rights to the song as it has been performed and recorded.

How does one tell the difference between composition and sound recording? The simplest way to is to imagine composition as the rights of the songwriter, while sound recording as the rights of the singer/performer. Though music sampling appears to only involve sound recording copyright, it is equally important for an individual to gain composition copyrights as well.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me?

If you looking to use music samples in your work, it is best to consult an experienced business attorney. An entertainment lawyer can determine what composition and sound recording copyrights you need to gain before having authorized use of the sample. An attorney can also help estimate whatever royalties you may need to pay for using the sample, and inform you of your rights regarding your own musical work.

If you are the owner of a previous musical work that has been illegally sampled, you should consult an entertainment lawyer immediately to assert your rights.