Metall auf Metall I & II: Limits to digital sampling

Lea Mackert

On 13 December 2012, the German Federal Court of Justice (“FCJ”) issued its judgment “Metall auf Metall II” confirming its earlier decision on digital sampling in the judgment “Metall auf Metall I”. Both are based on a dispute between Kraftwerk, the pioneers of electronic music, and the music producer Moses Pelham who sampled a two seconds long rhythm-sequence of Kraftwerk’s song “Metall auf Metall”.

In the decisions, the FCJ stated that sampling even the “smallest shreds of recorded sounds” infringes the rights to a sound recording. Although a single sound is not a “musical work” under the German Copyright Act (“GCA”), it shall be protected by the exclusive rights of record producers under section 85 para 1 of the GCA. Thus, neither the quality nor the quantity of a sample is a suitable criterion when assessing an infringement of 85 para 1 of the GCA.

Further, the FCJ does not qualify the sampling to be “free use” (“Freie Benutzung”) within the meaning of 24 GCA ...

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