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Germany

Songwriters Can Sample, Says Germany's High Court

Sampling music does not violate copyright laws, as long as the new song is original and melodies are left alone, Germany's highest court has ruled. The decision was a harsh blow to the German electronic band Kraftwerk.

A man listens to music on headphones

Artists can't complain if short excerpts of their songs are used by others

Electronic pioneers Kraftwerk had successfully sued German rap producer Moses Pelham for using a two-second sample from their 1977 track "Metal on Metal" in the rhythm sequence in the song "Nur Mir" by Sabrina Setlur that appeared in 1997.

The case was heard and upheld by a Hamburg state court which ruled in Kraftwerk's favor, saying Pelham was guilty as reusing even the shortest bit of a song infringed on copyright.

Members of the band Kraftwerk

The ruling was a blow to Kraftwerk

But on Thursday, Nov. 20, Germany's highest civil court in Karlsruhe overturned the Hamburg ruling in a case that could have far-reaching implications for the music industry.

The new court ruling, however, forbids sampling of a song melody and insists that the sample must be part of a completely new musical work bearing no resemblance to the original.

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