Rules on sampling other artists songs?

Hi Everyone,

If I take a song, sample sections of it, remix it, and post it to youtube or soundcloud can I get in trouble?

Just curious how you guys handle it.

From what I know if it’s not to make money, and for personal use, then I think its ok.

Best regards,


it is against US copyright law to publish any work derived from a master recording that you do not own or do not have the explicit rights (in writing) to use from the owner.

whether you will “get in trouble” is a different matter. it depends completely on whomever’s work you are appropriating.

You are breaking the letter of the law by posting sampled work to soundcloud or youtube. The enforcement of that law is the variable. Nobody can tell you with any certainty whether you will get in trouble or not. But you are 100% legally exposed, and should the copyright owner choose to pursue legal action, up shit creek w/out a paddle as they say.

(as an add on, Soundcloud has a way, not sure if it is automated, of scanning for derived work, and removing it from their website)


I had this happen to me when I posted a track a few years back. Soundcloud completely misidentified it as a track by someone else. I’d never heard of this artist, the tracks sounded nothing like each other, and essentially there was nothing I could do apart from rework the piece somewhat until it was accepted.

(Ironically, it did include a vocal sample that was wholly unauthorised, but I swapped that out for a speech synth instead anyway).

How annoying!

Producing hip hop myself, I feel I can offer a little insight to this:

So right now the legality of sampling an artist’s work is a wholly confusing and arbitrary system. As stated above, ANY kind of sampling from a master record is considered infringement, even if it is unrecognizable beyond a doubt. It doesn’t matter the length of the sample, or whether it’s for personal or commercial use.

BUT, if it’s unrecognizable, how can you legally get in any trouble unless your project files/sample source got into the wrong hands? It would take a highly trained ear (someone like a fellow musician who also samples/ has a good ear) to catch you, and at that point they may not even say anything. Or they could be a snitch which is just lame anyhow.

What I do: I just sample anyway and hope for the best. I use many techniques such as micro sampling, P-locking the tune or start and end points, sampling lesser know sections of songs instead of the"wow" moments, etc. Luckily Elektrons offer many ways we can mangle a sample beyond a reasonable resemblance, haha.

I highly recommend watching this as well:

He is not only an electronic musician, but a copyright lawyer as well! Lots of good insight in this, but be prepared to be just as confused or more confused by the end of it.


Not gonna tell you to break the law, but artists have been doing it for a looooooong time.

I’d worry about if you got signed.


I was at a bar and had a beer with a guy who was going to school for copyright law and him and I got to talking about music copyright.

He said there was some case (DJ Girl Talk or something?) that basically said “if the work is ‘transformative’ then it’s fine”

Idk. The way I look at it is unless you’ve got tons of money (see: Marvin Gaye Estate suing Robin Thicke, Tom Petty’s people suing Sam Smith [and settling out of court], Albert Hammond’s people suing Radiohead for Air that I Breathe vs Creep [which Albert Hammond himself said was bullshit and wished they hadn’t done that]), they aren’t going to go after you and the worst that could happen is they say “Hey take down that song.”

So yeah. The real problem right now is people posting stuff on youtube when they’re trying to educate…The state of musical education on youtube right now is absolutely bizarre because you can’t share a 10 second clip of a Led Zeppelin song without getting your video taken down and getting strikes against your account. Rick Beato said he uttered the words “Ozzy Osborne” in his video and got it taken down for showing five seconds of a Randy Rhodes solo that was live. When he took out those words and that solo it was fine.

Shit’s fucked. I could rant for a long, long time about the state of our copyright laws (In the US, I guess?) and how it’s just absolutely insane. How utterly mental ASCAP and BMI and UMG are and how they’ll stop at nothing to guarantee people pay their fees.

A guy at my local music shop told me that when a restaurant would play Rush Limbaugh over its speakers (don’t ask me why), they were required to have a license because Rush Limbaugh played music in between his talk radio.

He said people like him aren’t even allowed to have a little speaker with his own music playing while he’s working.

I know a woman who owns a little local venue and they couldn’t afford the licensing fees so they told every single band that played there (four bands/night, six nights/week, for ten years) to NEVER play covers or they’d be completely fucked. She said she’s had agents from ASCAP and BMI call her on her personal cell phone trying to extort her into paying the fees. She says they send these agents out to venues totally randomly to see if there are any covers being played, and if so they get slapped with a heavy fine. She co-owned this place with a gentleman and I saw him get visibly pissed and storm out of the room saying “I TOLD THEM NO FUCKING COVERS” the instant a band started a cover.

So fuck it. Sample to your heart’s content. Fuck 'em.


Regarding playing music at work it’s getting as silly here in the Uk although the ‘baddies’ over here are a different bunch. I work for a large UK company on a site which is ostentiably a non customer environment. A couple of years ago we had a memo circulated from head office telling us we could no longer have personal radio’s or TV’s on site. Anyone found using one was liable to disciplinary action. When we asked why we were told that a TV on a site effectively needed a license (fair enough I suppose under UK law, although there are TV’s at head office…).

We didn’t used to spend the day watching TV btw! The odd mess room might have one and those sites were used by field staff as well as site staff on a 24hr basis!

However when we asked about Radio’s we were told that the company was bound by law to pay the PRS as they had deemed using a radio in the workplace constituted broadcasting. When it was pointed out that you can’t broadcast without an audience it fell on deaf ears. As with any big organisation blanket bans are easier to enforce than a case by case basis. I guess something must have happened to prompt the company legal team into action though.

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Rule No1: don’t get caught.


Thanks for the responses, and it’s a good thing I checked! :slight_smile:

You see - I had an idea for a community challenge to take a well known groovy song like this (Herb Alpert - Rise) as the only sound source for the DT to make a tune.

The idea is to mangle/transform it into techno, filthy acid, ambient, etc.
I think it could be a lot of fun.

We do that for 2 weeks, vote on the best one, and share techniques (DT only, no DAW).

BUT - I don’t think we should because it puts people at risk by sharing publicly, and I don’t know if anyone would actually try such a silly contest :blush:.

Best regards,


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Why not sample from someone elses sample. Let the first sampler take the copyright blame :grinning:.


Unfortunately it´s pretty simple: if you don´t want to get into any legal trouble, don´t sample.
Here in Germany there is a lawsuit going on since 2004 where a producer sampled 2-3 sec. of a percussion loop from a Kraftwerk tune. I guess in 90% of the cases it´s not the artists/creators themselves taking legal actions but the distributors who have the rights for broadcasting creative work.

The new copyright law that was voted for in the EU just a few weeks ago is another proof that major labels, publishers etc. are the real profiteers in this industry. A lot of people doing creative work as a freelancer barely make ends meet while the ones passing art from A to B make serious cash. Too many things going wrong these days, this is just one of them.

With todays technical infrastructure and possibilities you actually don´t need those distributors anymore anyway, with something like a digital watermark in a official release that can´t be removed/edited that gets sampled you could make sure that the original creator gets a fair share for their work if the sampled tune is commercially successful. Just an idea from the top of my head, most likely there are better ways…

But buttomline is: as long as the labels, distributors, publishers etc. make the most money from the creative work of others, we´ll always have some juristic handcuffs that keep us from doing what we´d like to do.


If you’re song blows up big enough to get noticed then it doesn’t matter because of the publicity you’ll get from the song. Even if they cease all monetary gain from that song you’d be able to make more and ride the publicity. Plus in that scenario your song me er would have blown up without the sample anyway so you’re no worse off than you were to begin with. They don’t go after small producers, that’s a waste of money. Legal stuff is not cheap, why waste tons of money trying to crush nobodies and give your label and artists bad publicity? I wouldn’t worry about it. People have been riding wholly sample based careers for literally decades. It’s formed genres, sub cultures, shaped lives. Nothing is original, just don’t take someone’s whole song and call it yours


Well the sampled artists may consider it also to be a tribute to them, e.g I am still puzzled how Danger Mouse could get away with it… :smile:

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He didn’t get away with it. EMI put a stop to its planned distribution. Cause he did not make money off it legal repercussions beyond that were unnecessary. If he had been making money off it I’m sure he would have been sued by EMI for their cut.

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Right…i meant he was not charged for it and it pretty well distributed. And by the way started his career in a quite decent way.

Is the worse that can happen is all money made from sampled song is confiscated by original artist?

Sure if I did it id only sell 50 songs lol

IDK, you could end up like these guys…