A blog about patent, copyright and trademark law in the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York

Court Finds Sampling of Sound Recording Can Infringe Underlying Musical Composition

In an August 7, 2015 ruling, Judge Ronnie Abrams found that the “sampling” of a sound recording can constitute copyright infringement of the underlying musical composition. As Judge Abrams wrote, “‘[s]ampling’ is a ‘technique whereby a portion of an already existing sound recording is incorporated into a new work.’” In seeking summary judgment on the issue of sampling, the defendants argued that, even if it had sampled, it could not be liable for copyright infringement “because Plaintiff owns only the musical composition copyright, not the sound recording copyright, of” the allegedly infringed work. The Court rejected this argument, finding that while “sampling involves the direct copying of a sound recording, this mode of copying does not somehow shield a defendant from also infringing the underlying musical composition.” Judge Abrams concluded that “if Plaintiff is able to present evidence showing that Defendants did in fact sample the . . . drum part [in the allegedly infringed work], such evidence would constitute proof that Defendants actually copied Plaintiff’s musical composition.”
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