Hey Biz Talkers! In early June, the 9th Circuit Federal Court ruled that a 0.23 second sample of a sound recording used in another sound recording was too minimal to be deemed copyright infringement of the sound recording, or the musical composition of the sampled song. This ruling is groundbreaking because this is the first ruling that takes the position that a sample of a sound recording can bee deemed too minimal to constitute copyright infringement. Until this ruling, only the Sixth circuit had ever made a decision on whether a “de minimis” amount of copying used in a song sample is considered copyright infringement of a sound recording. Please note that the position of the Sixth Circuit court is that any amount of sampling of a sound recording is considered infringement unless permission is granted to use the sample.
The 9th Circuit case involved a suit against Madonna for the use of a horn hit from a recording called “Love Break” in her hit song “Vogue”. The court ruled that the de minimis exception to copyright infringement applies to court actions involving sound recordings just as it applies to all other copyright infringement actions.
This court ruling has created a split in federal law on the issue of copyright infringement of sound recordings. As a result, there is likely to be great motivation for owners of sound recordings to bring court actions for infringement in the Sixth Circuit, and samplers to bring court actions in the 9th Circuit to establish non-infringement to prevent any possibility of being sued for infringement if the threat of a suit exists. Until a law is passed by congress or the U.S. Supreme Court makes a ruling on this issue, I feel that we are on the brink of “Sampling Wars” that would make Chewbecca blush. At the very least, this court ruling turns the page to the next great chapter of the saga of sampling in the music industry, especially since sampling is still so popular. So, with that being said, stay tuned, and let the sampling games begin!!!