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REPLAY Syracuse University Symposium on Sound Sampling

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Digital Audio Sampling, Copyright Law and the American Music Industry: Piracy or Just a Bad “Rap” 

Houle, Jeffrey R., 37 Loy. L. Rev. 879 (1992)

In reality, the activity of digital sampling only becomes an issue when the portion sampled is qualitatively rich and allows the sampler to imbue his song with the qualities and identity of the copyright protected work. This is tantamount to pirating the entire song from its author since the samples taken most often contain the “sound” and substance of the host song. Whether or not the commercial use of the sample decreases the demand for the sampled artist’s work is immaterial. The artist’s song has been taken without authorization and placed through a computer-aided “chop shop” to satisfy the economic and creative needs of another without remuneration to the author or respect for his work. Digital audio samples and all components of a musician’s work warrant copyright protection, assuming the whole also merits protection as well.

The custom of the recording industry is to contract separately for each song. This protocol is violated by the unauthorized work of digital samples in the commercial recording industry. Those who break with protocol and violate the copyright protections of a fellow artist should not be allowed to profit from their actions. Only in this way will true creativity be spawned and true genius discovered.

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