What is sampling?

Sampling Music Law Intellectual Property

What is sampling?

“Sampling” is the practice of digitally copying or transferring snippets or portions of a preexisting (copyrighted) record to make a new composition. An artist will take a piece of a pre-existing recording and use that piece (i.e., “sample”) to create a new recording. Sampling exists mostly in rap, hip-hop, street, or dance records. A prime example of a successfully sampled song is the huge MC Hammer hit single, “U Can’t Touch This,” which was a sample of Rick James’ prior hit, “Super Freak.” Thus, samples are basically “derivative works” of a previous copyrighted song. The right to prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work is one of the five bundle of rights of the copyright owner – the song writer(s) or publisher(s). As such, the copyright owner must grant permission (a mechanical license) before the copyrighted song(s) can be used.

(Reprinted with permission of Ruben Salazar, Esq.)

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