Appeals court rules brief "Vogue" horn sample was not copyright infringement

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The 9th Circuit Court affirmed today that a quarter-second sample used by Madonna didn't infringe the copyright of the original artist. Billboard reports that 1990 hit Vogue's use of a brass hit from 1976's "Love Break" was so small as to be trivial.

"After listening to the audio recordings submitted by the parties, we conclude that a reasonable juror could not conclude that an average audience would recognize the appropriation of the horn hit," writes 9th Circuit judge Susan Graber in today's opinion. "That common-sense conclusion is borne out by dry analysis. The horn hit is very short—less than a second. The horn hit occurs only a few times in Vogue. Without careful attention, the horn hits are easy to miss. Moreover, the horn hits in Vogue do not sound identical to the horn hits from Love Break... Even if one grants the dubious proposition that a listener recognized some similarities between the horn hits in the two songs, it is hard to imagine that he or she would conclude that sampling had occurred."

The ruling seems to run counter to other recent courtroom action where a song was found to infringe a Marvin Gaye classic despite containing no samples of it at all. But things are complicated in copyright! Note that the court listens to the recordings: subjective similarity is at hand, not just technology. Which perhaps explains why an extensively imitative passage with no direct sampling might be found infringing, but a short sample re-used in a novel and transformative way is not. Read the rest

German court hands Kraftwerk its ass, rules sampling is legal

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Today, Kraftwerk lost its vindictive, 19-year-long copyright suit against Sabrina Setlur, whose 1997 song "Nur mir" looped a drum sequence from Kraftwerk's 1977 "Metall auf Metall." Read the rest

Hear Terry Riley's groundbreaking 1968 remix of a soul tune

In 1968, pioneering minimalist composer Terry Riley remixed The Harvey Averne Dozen's soul tune "You're No Good" into a 20-minute tape machine and Moog composition of sampled, looped, and cut-up sounds moving in and out of phase. Strange and beautiful. Read the rest

Oswald's Grayfolded: plunderphonics Grateful Dead now on vinyl

In 1994, "plunderphonics" pioneer John Oswald released "Grayfolded," a nearly two-hour composition made from more than 100 recordings of the Grateful Dead's live performances of their song "Dark Star" from between 1968 and 1993. Next month, Important Records is reissuing Grayfolded on a triple gatefold vinyl with new liner notes containing interviews with the Dead and a map of all the recording's source material. Above, a trailer for the release.

Here's what Oswald said about Grayfolded in 1995: Read the rest

The history of sampling in three minutes

Eclectic Method offers a brief journey through the history of sampling, from the Mellotron to whatever happened last year beginning with the letter "M". Read the rest