"NASHVILLE — A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that rap artists should pay for every musical sample included in their work — even minor, unrecognizable snippets of music.
Lower courts had already ruled that artists must pay when they sample another artists' work. But it has been legal to use musical snippets — a note here, a chord there — as long as it wasn't identifiable.
The decision by a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati gets rid of that distinction. The court said federal laws aimed at stopping piracy of recordings applies to digital sampling.
"If you cannot pirate the whole sound recording, can you 'lift' or 'sample' something less than the whole? Our answer to that question is in the negative," the court said.
"Get a license or do not sample. We do not see this as stifling creativity in any significant way."
Some observers questioned whether the court's opinion is too restrictive, especially for rap and hip-hop artists who often rhyme over samples of music taken from older recordings."