German court rules song sampling okay

This file photo taken on Nov 25, 2015, shows German musician Ralf Huetter (right) of band "Kraftwerk" waiting at Germany's highest court in Karlsruhe.
This file photo taken on Nov 25, 2015, shows German musician Ralf Huetter (right) of band "Kraftwerk" waiting at Germany's highest court in Karlsruhe. PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN • 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 to 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 from Kraftwerk's track Metall Auf Metall, or Metal On Metal, is repeated in the song.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2016, with the headline 'German court rules song sampling okay'. Print Edition | Subscribe