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The Balance between Beat Making, Creativity & Copyright Law

Let me say straight off the high hat that creativity & copyright law do not make instant bedfellows! Within beat rap there is a tendency to sample, which is both quick & easy, versus "copyright ownership" highly focused on what may constitute theft. The discussion can veer between litigation on the one hand and ignorance on the other. The basic problem is how to objectively measure how much of the remixed song "borrows" from the original.


One of the current stumbling blocks to licensing copyright (and thus incentive to copy without paying) is administrative overhead and cost. Recording licenses can be obtained at a flat fee normally ranging from $100 to over $10,000. This is countered by royalties to recording owners of between 0.5 cents and 3 cents per track sold. 15% of the original new work's musical composition copyright might be assigned to the original author, and if extensive looping and reuse is employed, up to 66% may be allocated.



Non paying sampling artists have two current defense strategies that they can deploy: de minimis and fair use. De minimis is the most commonly used defense as it claims that the re-use is basically trivial and therefore does not amount to infringement. The definition of "trivial use" is normally very vague and courts can resort to using ordinary lay listeners in an attempt to untangle the issue! Fair use on the other hand can employ open parody using the justification of "social purpose" based on intended criticism or commentary.


If you really want to circumnavigate the whole copyright issue and can read music AND you are feeling the funk then Public Domain Music may be worth a look. Who knows, maybe you get an IDEA from this? Any composition (not sound recording) copyrighted before 1922 in the USA may be used without limitation. Unfortunately there is no "international copyright" so you will have to delve into your local copyright laws if outside the US.


All of this of course distracts from the intended aim of being creative. Admittedly legality only really gets in the way of creativity when enough money is involved! If you sample Pink Floyd and then distribute it widely then the chances of litigation go up. Everything should be based on an idea (the thing that makes you go) in the first place. If you add sounds later that alter your original framework or concept then that's just the way things go!


Nadel Paris is an EDM artist and a music producer. Nadel writes about music and its genres, other related topics and shares her experience she has over the years. Her new album “Ooh La La La La” is now available for purchase on iTunes. It features remixes by your favorite EDM DJ’s like Ray Rhodes, Pascal, Starbright, Cyphonix, Drew G and DJ M. Chicago.

To know more about Nadel visit her here:


Post by nadelparis (2018-02-10 03:03)

Tags: Nadel Paris Beat Making

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