Blow to German band over disputed sample from 1977 track

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Kraftwerk have lost a legal battle in Germany’s highest court over the sampling of one of their songs.

The sample came from band’s 1977 song “Metall auf Metall“. The dispute centres on a short drum sequence looped repeatedly in the song “Nur Mir (Only Me)” by Sabrina Setlur.

Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hutter sued producer Moses Pelham, alleging that his use of the clip, without asking, infringed the band’s intellectual property rights.

But the German Constitutional Court decided that the impact on Kraftwerk did not outweigh “artistic freedom” and ruled that Pelham can sample the two-second beat from without infringing copyright.

The Guardian reports that court, based in Karlsruhe in south-west Germany, said the sequences were only seconds long and “led to the creation of a totally new and independent piece of work”.

“The economic value of the original sound was therefore not diminished,” the court said, adding that banning sampling would in effect spell the end of some music styles.

“The hip-hop music style lives by using such sound sequences and would not survive if it were banned.”

The ruling overturns a previous decision by the federal court of justice.

The dispute began in 1997, when Hütter claimed that Pelham had infringed Kraftwerk’s intellectual property rights without permission.

In 2012, Germany’s highest court for non-constitutional legal matters ruled in Kraftwerk’s favour.

Pelham’s lawyer, Udo Kornmeier, subsequently appealed to the highest court in Germany.

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