Music pioneers Kraftwerk lose court fight over sampled hip-hop song

Electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk have lost a 19-year-long copyright battle against an artist who had sampled a two-second drum sequence from one of their songs. The group’s lead singer had claimed elements of their 1977 song Metal On Metal had been stolen and used in Sabrina Setlur’s 1997 release Nur Mir, which translates into English as Only Me. Although the band had won the backing of a German judge to seek damages and an injunction on the song, that ruling has been overturned by the country’s highest court on appeal.

(If the impact is) negligible, then artistic freedom overrides the interest of the owner of the copyright.

Court ruling

Ms Setlur, along with producer Moses Pelham, had argued the initial verdict infringed their artistic freedom - not least because sampling is a common practice in the hip-hop genre. The constitutional court agreed, and said sampling should be permitted if a new composition is not in direct competition with the sampled work and does not affect the original artist financially. Artists could have greater freedom to use small segments of other records as a result of the ruling. Several hip-hop artists have fallen victim to such disputes recently, especially as they are usually required to seek permission from intellectual property owners before using elements of their work.