[linux-audio-user] Copyrights on samples

Chris Cannam linux-audio-user@music.columbia.edu
Tue Oct 14 06:23:01 EDT 2003

On Tuesday 14 Oct 2003 8:29 am, Anahata wrote:
> I know that laws requiring some sort of artistic/aesthetic
> judgement for their enforcement are on thin ice, but surely it's
> easy to determine the intention here. [...] nobody produces a
> recording of music with the *intention* that it should be sampled
> and used in something else, unless it's something like a sound
> effects cellection in which case that intention is quite clear and
> the copyright statement would be worded accordingly.

Well, further down my email I asked: Is it just about intention?  
Copyright law doesn't normally appear (as far as I can see) to take 
intention into account, apart from in certain specific situations 
such as fair use or parody.  If you accidentally duplicate someone 
else's tune, the fact that it was unintentional might mitigate the 
damages but it won't save your case, as artists have discovered.  And 
the legal problem with sampling is not that you're using a recording 
in a way other than what was intended, but that you're simply 
violating copyright by recording and redistributing it at all.  
Intention in the latter situation is surely only relevant in 
determining whether someone is liable for actual damages.

A sample CD permits use by including an effective waiver of copyright 
in certain situations, that works in the same sort of way as the GPL: 
a statement that if you do certain things that would normally be 
copyright violations, you won't be sued.  Are you suggesting that the 
only reason recordings of Rolands are permitted is that Roland are 
similarly generously prepared to overlook the copyright violations 
inherent in them and decline to take you to court?  Or that synths 
also need to come with a statement expressly permitting you to use 
them as musical instruments, and that recording any synth without 
such a license would technically be a copyright violation?

You see we're talking about two separate things here: the copyright 
inherent in a "work" (in this case the sound of a synth) and any 
additional rights granted or restricted by licence.  The sounds in a 
sample CD are probably copyrighted, but you have additional rights to 
use them in certain ways.  The question is: are the sounds in a synth 
copyrighted at all?  If so, where are the additional rights coming 
from that permit me to record them in a commercial song?


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