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How Do I Legally Sample a Song?

Copyright infringement is no joke, as anyone who has tried to upload a video that contains un-licensed music to YouTube can attest. Copyright infringement is the use of works protected by copyright law without permission or infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display, or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works.

To legally sample a song, a musician should seek permission for any and all copyrighted works. That is, the musician needs to obtain consent from the songwriter or publisher to sample the underlying composition and obtain consent from the artist or recording label to sample the recording. When seeking these permissions, the more information a musician can provide about how the material will be used, the better. For example, if you know how many seconds of the song you want to use, how many recordings you want to distribute and how, share this with the copyright owner, who may be more inclined to grant you permission to use their song. You may also be asked to provide a demo of what the recording would sound like if you use the sample.

Naturally, the owners of the works may be concerned about how a sampled song will diminish the value of the original recording. While sometimes sampled works increase the value of the original work, because they direct listeners to seek out and purchase the original work, sometimes sampled songs "ruin" the original song, at least in the eyes and ears of the owner. It is important to be conscientious of this concern when you approach the original owner of a copyrighted song.

Payment will also be an important consideration in negotiating a license. Experienced copyright attorneys for both parties can negotiate royalties and ownership of the new recording. If both parties approve the request to sample, the next step is to enter into a sampling agreement. An attorney can provide reassurance about the licensing and usage procedures associated with the work.

For more information on how to obtain a license for a copyrighted song or other work of art, contact the Orange County copyright lawyers at MYBE Law today.

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