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Can sampling in a song be considered copyright infringement?

On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2021 | Copyright Law

Being an aspiring musician in the New York City area is definitely exciting. In the rap and hip-hop communities, sampling is a very common practice in songs. However, there is a question about whether sampling is actually infringement. Copyright laws are often strict. The original creator of a sampling snippet may take issue with their work being used.

Why identifying a sample used in a song is considered snitching

For years, since hip hop’s beginnings, there have been copyright issues and lawsuits coming as a result of the genre using samples of other artists’ songs. In some cases, the snippets were redone to accommodate the beat in the song in which they were being used. One of the first examples was seen in Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” which was known as the first-ever hip-hop hit. A sampling from Chic’s “Good Times” was used, prompting a lawsuit.

Owners of record labels that record hip hop are often informed about the information of the samples used by artists. However, many people in the industry who end up questioned about the use of sampling prefer to be anonymous or refuse to speak publicly at all. The reason is that identifying a sample used in a song is often considered to be “snitching.” It can also more easily lead to a copyright lawsuit coming up. Still, more and more of today’s artists are not sampling as much.

Database of samples opens the door to lawsuits

A website called “WhoSampled” is considered the largest and most detailed database of samples. It includes a listing of artists who have used samples of other songs in their music, submitted by users. However, the site is considered to make it easier for potential copyright lawsuits to be brought forth. If a sample wasn’t cleared and ended up used, grounds for a lawsuit are definitely valid.