The Best Way to Legally Sample a Song?

How Much of a Song Can You Legally Sample?

When it comes to how to legally sample music, there can be a lot of confusion around what is and isn’t legal. Although sampling music is an incredibly powerful tool in the world of music production, it’s important to understand when and how you can legally use samples in your own compositions. This blog post will explore the legalities of sampling music, outlining the rules and regulations that you need to be aware of.

What is copyright law?

Copyright law is designed to protect the creative works of authors, artists, and other creators from unauthorized use. It gives them exclusive rights over their works for a certain period. The rights protected by copyright include: the right to copy, distribute, or perform their works publicly. When someone else wants to use those works, they must obtain permission from the copyright holder or risk being sued for copyright infringement. 

Can I use 30 seconds, 1 min, or 5 mins?

When it comes to song sampling, there is no bright line rule that says any use is acceptable to use as long as you only use 5, 15, or 30 seconds of a song. According to U.S. copyright law, any use of copyrighted material without permission is copyright infringement. It does not matter if you use one second or the entire song; what matters is whether the use is considered fair use or not.

Fair use considerations may include the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion used about the copyrighted work as a whole, and the effect of the use on the potential market for the original work. Ultimately, it’s up to a judge to decide whether a particular use constitutes fair use or copyright infringement.

What is fair use?

Fair use is not a law or an exception. It’s a defense used in copyright infringement claims. It allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder in certain circumstances. Fair use is considered on a case-by-case basis and there is some level of risk when relying on it. To determine if your use of a copyrighted work is fair, the Copyright Act criteria include:
1. The purpose and character of your use
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used about the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work
Some examples of when fair use can be considered are: for educational or nonprofit purposes. This does not mean that if you choose to give your music away for free or use it as “promo” fair use can be used.

When can I legally sample a copyrighted work?

To legally sample a song, permission must be obtained from both the person who owns the rights to the composition, usually the publisher, and the person who owns the rights to the sound recording, usually the record label. This is done to avoid infringing copyright.
If a composition is remade, in other words, you remake the beat, then you would only need to license the composition, not the sound recording.
It is important to understand the basics of copyright law before using or sampling any copyrighted work, so make sure to research what is permissible in your particular situation.

How do I get permission to sample a copyrighted work?

The only way to be completely safe with music is to avoid it or obtain the appropriate permissions and licenses. Organizations such as the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) issue permissions and licenses for music.
Other alternatives include:

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