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Sampling occurs when a portion of a prior recording is incorporated into a new composition. When a song is sampled without permission, copyright infringement of both the sound recording (usually owned by the record company) and the song (usually owned by the songwriter or publishing company) has occurred.

In order to legally use a sample, you will need to contact both the owner of the sound recording and the copyright owner of the underlying musical work for permission. License fees for sampling vary greatly and depends on the following:

  • how much of the sample you intend to use
  • the music you intend to sample
  • the intended use of the sample in your song

Licenses can be granted for free, for a percentage of the mechanical royalties (i.e., a couple cents for each record pressed), or for a flat fee. As there are no statutory rates for samples, the copyright owner can charge whatever he wants and does not have to let you use his work at all.

Using samples without permission can lead to you paying statutory damages to the copyright owner from $500-$100,000 per infringement, and a court can even make you to recall and destroy all of your infringing albums.

Do not rely on the “fair use” doctrine or the myth that you can use a certain number of seconds of someone’s song without penalty. Get permission.

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Music Publishing 101

An online guide to the basics of Music Publishing, broken down to its simplest form.