Kraftwerk sampling ruling overturned

Kraftwerk: now they have a real reason not to smile.
Kraftwerk: now they have a real reason not to smile.

A German court has overturned a ruling saying that a song featuring a Kraftwerk sample had infringed the electronic music pioneers' copyright.

Previously, a Hamburg court had decided that producer Moses Pelham had infringed Kraftwerk's copyright by using a sample from the band's Metal On Metal in the 1997 track Nur Mir by Sabrina Setlur.

However, judges in Berlin have now found in Pelham's favour, saying that the song he produced was different enough from the one it sampled not to infringe Kraftwerk's copyright.

The case will now be heard again at the Hamburg court. If this finds in Pelham's favour this time, it could change the legal landscape in Germany (in terms of sampling, anyway).

However, it should be noted that the new ruling "forbids sampling of a song melody and insists that the sample must be part of a completely new musical work bearing no resemblance to the original". So whatever the outcome, don't expect some kind of sampling free for all.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.