Germany Rules Sampling In Hip Hop More Important Than Kraftwerk’s Rights

kraftwerk-3d-symphonyGermany’s highest court on Tuesday ruled against Kraftwerk in a case that pitted the samplers against the sampled.

The ruling overturns a ban on the sale of the song Nur mir (Only to me), by music producer Moses Pelham and rapper Sabrina Setlur, which makes use of a sample from Kraftwerk’s Metal On Metal, from Trans-Europe Express.

Germany’s Deutsche Welle reports:

During the long-running case, Kraftwerk’s lead singer Ralf Hütter has insisted that the commandment “thou shalt not steal’ also applied to music. Meanwhile, Pelham argued that sampling is common practice in the hip hop genre.

The court ruled that composers can, under certain conditions, incorporate external audio clips into their own music without asking permission and do not have to pay royalties.

If the copyright infringement is only “marginal,” the court said, then artistic freedom takes precedence over the intellectual property rights of the original musician.

In essence, Germany ruled that hip hop’s use of sampling can be transformative and not just derivative, and that this needs to be taken into account when considering sampling cases.

‘Nur Mir’ vs ‘Metal On Metal’

Is Nur Mir’s use of Metal On Metal more than just copying?

Check out the tracks below and let us know what you think!

Kraftwerk’s Metal On Metal:

Sabrina SetlurNur’s Mir (Only Me) :

111 thoughts on “Germany Rules Sampling In Hip Hop More Important Than Kraftwerk’s Rights

    1. I wouldn’t say it’s biased. Simply stating the truth. Kraftwerk’s rights (as music rights holders in this case) are being violated, because I guess in the court’s eyes somehow “common practice” means it’s okay to violate copyright all the sudden? Slippery slope.

      1. Suggestion: Read the article next time, before you comment.

        “If the copyright infringement is only ‘marginal,’ the court said, then artistic freedom takes precedence over the intellectual property rights of the original musician.”

        It isn’t a license to ripoff Kraftwerk or anybody else or a slippery slope – it’s just saying that you can’t ban people from making music using samples just because you don’t like it or because you want to make more money off of them.

        1. I have read the article, and as both a musician and dj have some pretty strong opinions about this. Sampling maybe common pratice, but not matter what if you are not working with or have permission from the original artist it is still stealing.

          I have had a gag order on speaking directly about my personal situation or mentioning of any by name bands that, have made money by using the sampling excuse.

          I can excuse sampling of another artists work… Minimally. I.E. 15 notes or less. But at the same time the original artist should be compensated, mentioned, and first of all on board with the use of their work.

          In this case Kraftwerk is stil around, alive and performing. Thus taking public usage rights off the table. Were as in the case of music that has been around for minimum of 50 years with no licences being held, then and only then; unless the licensor gave approval for use is it public usage. Even then I am hesitant to stand behind a ruling of this kind as, it takes a slippery slope on artists rights of their own creations. And puts diminutive responsibility on the sampler than the original composer.

          I have lost enough faith after this ruling in the German system to protect artists, that I and many other musicians are refusing play rights, performances or sales of our work in Germany till this unjustifiable ruling is over turned in favorof the original artist being Kraftwerk.

          One would think that a country responcible for great music would take better measures to protect their artists anf not plagiarists.

          If you can’t write an original drum, synth, guitar or what ever line. Find someone you can work with that can or pay for sample usage rights from the artist.

          1. I’m not sure you listened to the actual track – there is a very light use of the drum loop sample. The sample is really just a bit of a hi hat pattern at the very start that has layers of other more significant drums. It is a truly insignificant part of the track in question. In this instance the argument for copyright was overstretched.

            Addressing the last two paragraphs – In this instance the two track are so dissimilar there can be no reasonable claim of plagiarism, nor any other similarity.

            The last point you make suggests you fundamentally don’t get hip-hop style sampling. It’s like pop art, or photo montage, or found art, or music concrete or homage, pastiche – it is absolutely about using the work of others and materials from the world around you as a statement. The media is the message – is they way they used to say it.

            I agree credit where credit is due but at a time when it takes a single click to copy/edit/process copyright is becoming somewhat of an irrelevance. Musicians always steal from each other – that’s how they learn… as the world gets more connected and copying becomes easier I don’t know how your going to stop it. Eventually judges will start throwing a lot of these cases out as nuisance cases – like in the case above.

            1. You wrote:
              “I’m not sure you listened to the actual track – there is a very light use of the drum loop sample. The sample is really just a bit of a hi hat pattern at the very start that has layers of other more significant drums. It is a truly insignificant part of the track in question.”

              Then why even sample it? Why not program your own, identical or nearly identical part?

      2. I am sorry but restricting sampling in any form does nothing but repress innovation. re purposing music has been going on since music existed and is how entire genres of music and instruments were created in the first place. To act like your ego or wallet is immune from that is to spit in the face of the art that allowed you to be who you are in the first place.

        1. pphht! Using samples privately as a springboard for ideas is one thing, mix-and-matching snippets created by other musicians for your own commercial gain and calling the result innovative stretches the meaning of the word. Borrow and reinterpret by all means (I believe that does fit in with what you are saying above) , but play it yourself.

          1. “mix-and-matching snippets created by other musicians” has been done over and over – you can point to led zeppelin, the beatles, the rolling stones and on and on – in fact I was just listening to an interview the other day where rivers cuomo was saying that he starts off writing weezer songs by turning on spotify and finding riffs to copy and line up with lyrics he has – how is that any different than sampling a 1 second drum loop and building a song on it? and do you throw out artists like skinny puppy or for that fact the whole industrial music genre?

        2. Out and out using recordings of others’ music in one’s own recordings has not been going on since music existed, only since about the 80s.

          I like sampling. I especially love sampling movie dialogue. But sampling music, I think, is different.

    2. I have read seriously concerning comments. The sample on “Nur Mir” is a simple drum loop, it’s topped with guitars, vocals, echoes, fx, and is hardly recognisable if it’s not alone. I’m as big a Kraftwerk fan, and used to hear “Nur Mir” on Viva as a kid, and I’ve only realised the sample was from TEE because of this court ruling.

      The court’s ruling is adequate in my view: it’s not legalising theft, it’s merely establishing that within certain bounds it can be permitted to utilize small portions of external audio clips. All Hip Hop is sampled, and a lot of House and Drum N Bass – hell, even Jeff Mills samples a lot. Sampling is a relevant part of modern culture, not just in music, but in movies, instalations and literature.

      We need to find modern context for great ideas from the past constantly, lest we forget them. If we are not imitating we are innovating, I condemn a simple loop that would rip off TEE if it where left alone with the vocal on top to be the only thing supporting the track; but it’s not a forefront drum track.

      1. Each hack you mentioned is a plagerist then? And owe a shit ton to every artist they ripped off.

        You can’t just sample something for film for free and without consent. So your justification is very lacking in depth and logic. How many sample packs do you have to pay for if you do not want to make you own. And hey most of those are just singular sounds not even loops. But what do I know… I am no digital sheepto be hearded into the brain washing of hacks that lack talent and true flow.

  1. Terrible precedent set by the court. Germany was until very recently a champion for artist’s rights against theft. The loosening of copyright control continues. Not sure how they justify opening Kraftwerk up to this kind of sampling. Next stop the public domain.

    1. Did you listen to the track?

      The sample was a fairly trivial component and yet Kraftwerk wanted to get all the money or for the track to be banned.

      The government should not effectively ban entire genres of music – which is what has happened with sample-based music. It should find a reasonable way to ensure that artists can make music created with samples, while also making sure that the original musicians get fairly compensated.

      And that’s what Germany is asking the lower court to do.

      Most people seem to be judging this based on whether they like the track or hip hop.

      I’m a big Kraftwerk fan and not a hip hop fan, but it’s obvious to me that Kraftwerk was suing for the money because they could, rather than because it was right or moral to do so.

      1. Looking into the ruling. I will still side with Kraftwerk. An artist should be given the choice if sampled a: whether or not they want thier composition/s even associated with said secondary artist. B: compensation… As I have mentioned in other comments as Kraftwerk is still alive and performing, thier music does not fall under public domain, hence fourth should have say on the usge of thierown music and charge what ever they feel like, as bands and djs do with remixes. C: If an artists music consists mainly of copying, cutting and pasting of others work, well then they are not really musicians and hence should have to pay for every tool they use just as every musician does with the equipment, studio time, and every other aspect of their art. If not then yes the song should be pulled and banned as a violation of copywrite infringement.

        If the artist using the sample cannot respect the original artist enough to even find out if they would be okay with the use of sampled material. I bring this up as a musician who has utilized samples and loops since the late 80’s to produce and write music, but I either buy the sample/sample packs, record my own (and not from other peoples music, usually industrial, natural, weather, and other creations for sound or voice samples.) If I am doing a remix I work with the artist. And if someone wants to use any of my samples I would do the samething if say Kanye or any oneof that ilk tried using mine. And I stand behind anyone who stands against this type of illogical type of justification of shredding artist rights.

        1. I actually wholeheartedly disagree, if egregious use ie: sampling a whole track is taking place it is one thing but personally I don’t see the difference between this and pop or surrealist art where you take iconic and popular images and suppose it in a different view in order to create new art.

      2. The sound is the opener in the song and thus not trivial.
        And maybe Kraftwerk would have allowed the use, if the song just would not have been THAT crappy….. 😉
        And were did you get “they wanted all the money”? The stopped publishing the track by court because the “Rapper” neither asked them about the usage nor wanted to make a contract for the usage fees with them.

    2. not sure how they justify it? then maybe you should read this (and perhaps further) articles before you comment?

    3. This is not loosening copy right control.

      It would be the same law which lets people grab audio clips from movies for songs. It’s no different. You all think artists are using MINUTES worth of material and calling it their own song.

      Get over it. They aren’t. Germany is behind the evolution of sampling, which is odd. Usually Germany tends to be ahead of the game. I believe it’s like 30 seconds or so in North America.

      I follow the belief of just doing it anyways and not care about the fallout.

      1. You would be totally wrong about all of this. There is no law which lets people grab audio clips from movies for songs. NIN sampled 5 seconds of an obscure documentary about religion on a remix album and got sued for $9000. Please show me a source that shows me that “it’s like 30 seconds or so in North America.”

  2. I took years, engineers and studio spendings to create a concept and original art to be used in a commercial material without permission, now assured by law…it is not creative commons, they should have asked for permission at least!

    1. That German track is by no means the first. Especially the rising synth tones from Numbers by Kraftwerk, but also the beat, has appeared in countless electro / breaks tunes over the years.

      I do take the point that the hip-hop track was also a commercial project – which I think is relevant to the debate.

      While there is a lot more to say (and I still want musicians to be able to make a living), I still think it is worth noting that no music (even as revolutionary as Kraftwerk) is created in a vacuum. For most of history musicians were taking ideas from each other when they composed folk music. Hell in western music there are only 12 tones there are only so many ways to combine these simply – I have definitely written music on a guitar only to find out that I had either subconsciously re-produced a song or co-created a similar progression.

      My point is that Kraftwerk do not own all their ideas either, and while I cannot comment on the legal merits of the decision I do not like the tendency in the world to make copy-write more pervasive and strict. The growth of copy-write over music and arts is largely carving out little profitable fiefdoms from culture that we collectively own.

      1. Hell in western music there are only 12 tones there are only so many ways to combine these simply – I have definitely written music on a guitar only to find out that I had either subconsciously re-produced a song or co-created a similar progression.

        This commentary is totally wrong. Amount of tones or amount of harmonic progression is huge because of time variance. And even in simple things like I-V progressions some musicians are staying original for decades.

    1. And if you look at how much of thier samples were also made samples and were also following the lines of proper professional music industry standards. I.E. publicists contacting other artists, labels, etc… Paying royalties for samples etc…

  3. Shame on Kraftwerk. This isn’t theft. The music is barely derivative. This is an older, out of touch group of guys who don’t realize what hip hop is. They should take it as a compliment and let the new generation have some fun. And BTW… Kraftwerk’s music did not age well.

    1. And if hip-hop can’t make it’s own music, than it needs to pay the people who’s music they do use. Otherwise it is nothing more than theft.

      Maybe they do not see it as a compliment. Maybe as artist they stand at opposing views and do not want to be associated with the other act. But I guess that only matter when hip-hop is ripped off. Oh wait!

    2. Sorry, but are you that clueless that you think that Kraftwerk, who practically invented popular electronic music, don’t know what hip hop is? I think it is you who doesn’t know who Kraftwerk is or how relevant they are.

  4. Uh. Nur mir is nothing. Who cares that they us kraftwerk sample. Nobody remeber that production after 30 years. Krafrwerk still live on.

    1. Ralf by himself is Not KW.
      Original KW members fell out with Ralf.
      Ralf has been appropriating KW joint compositions then presenting it as his own in live shows.

  5. The rip off song had an ad before it, but the original did not. That’s irony, isn’t it? If someone records a recording and sells it as their own, it’s stealing, lying, and lazy. I don’t care if it’s only one beat, for the love of decency, shame on those who make excuses for it. It can be done artfully or it can be hackneyed, but it’s still not yours and if you’re going to do it for public ears, get permission. How hard is it to sequence your own damn beat!?

    1. “The rip off song had an ad before it, but the original did not. That’s irony, isn’t it?”

      This is because the Nur Mir track that includes the sample isn’t available on Youtube. I wondered if that’s because of the earlier ban.

      We had to use a version of the track from Dailymotion, which tacks on a pre-roll ad that you can’t skip.

      Sorry that that’s the only version we could find.

      1. I understand that feed
        what annoying is the page autoloading and page hickuping vid ads
        This website use to be easy to use, now it is a pain sometimes

      2. yet another reason to use ad blockers – getting rid of annoying pre-roll video advertisements that you can’t skip! (not to mention my pet peeve on synthtopia: large, fake “next page” buttons – those really need to go away forever!)

        the sad thing is that I used to love the ads in music and computer magazines; somehow web ads make everything worse: they slow down page loads, they drain your battery, they make the content harder to read, they distract you with irritating crap, and they invade your privacy with intrusive tracking and “analytics.”

      3. fortunately there is software you can install that prevents those irritating unskippable pre-roll ads from playing. it makes dailymotion almost tolerable.

    2. Have you ever actually played music in a band with a drummer? Show me a drummer that hasn’t appropriated a drum beat (or 20) they’ve heard before and I’ll show you a *totally useless* drummer.

        1. >>> Appropriated > unlicensed sample

          It’s the same thing. One uses a machine. We can discuss the merits of hard work and practice and all of that but in the end, it’s the same thing.

          Clive Stubblefield was ‘sampled’ by armadas of drummers long before (and after) the invention of the digital sampler.

  6. Oh dear Ralf
    not content with
    1. falling out with all original KW members 2. presenting yourself as KW
    3. appropiriating their joint composition as your own

    Now Ralf you have the gall to claim this.

  7. Even though I don’t like the new artist’s use of the samples at all (Sabrina SetlurNur’s Mir,) I don’t see how their sampled, re-pitched drum loop is stealing.
    Wasn’t Kraftwerk’s album release in 1977? It’s been in the public domain for how long?
    After 39 years this use of the sample seems to be paying homage to Kraftwerk (wanted or not.)

    Marginal infringement seems to be a fairly reasonable ruling.
    Kraftwerk’s lead singers “Thou shalt not steal” comment is naive; nothing is that black and white.
    I’m sure Nur mir loves the press attention.

    1. You have “released to the public” & “public domain” confused. First off there are still members of Kraftwerk still alive and performing no less. Second, the label still holds license too.

      Right there you have 3 things in 2 points keeping it from being public domain. Public domain happens after the death of all people involved in holding license, copywrite and/or creation of said composition. It take 50 years there after to become public domain, unless released as public domain with no royalties, or owners/licenses being held.

      Where as being released to the public is a totally different thing and what you talking about. Just because something is released to the public does not make it public domain.

      1. I don’t know about Germany, but in the US it’s something like life + 70 years. Not sure how the life length of an immortal corporation is measured though…

  8. Kraftwerk must visit and take it to the court for all 638 tracks they’ve been sampled on. (Hint hint.)

    1. This made the whole thing that much more interesting! Thanks!

      But that would mean, by winning against Kraftwerk, Pelham is eroding his own stand against free sampling&recycling of music, right? But then again, precedent cases don’t mean as much in Germany as they do in (for example) the US.

      1. well, the difference is where it is a whole song versus a sample that has been altered (quite a bit in this song)

        Plus it is also about who is making money

      2. “But that would mean, by winning against Kraftwerk, Pelham is eroding his own stand against free sampling&recycling of music, right?”

        “It’s okay if I do it. it’s not if you do!”

        1. No sure that I agree. Like already said, there is a huge difference between pirating a complete song or sampling a few seconds and incorporating it into something completely new. Sampling of drumloops, beats or single hits have long been here – and it´s very different from stealing a song or even an album.

    2. Yeah well it is technically illegal. It is harder and harder today for mid-level bands to eke out a living, partly because the Internet let people make millions of copies globally in a matter of minutes. Artists have a hard time controlling access to their work.

    1. I was gonna say the same! In fact, they might have sampled it off Run-DMC as well, go figure 😀 I have listened both tunes in this post, but couldn’t identify anything there sampled from Kraftwerk.. I’d love to see how they presented their case in court….

  9. I see it for what it is, the Kraftwerk track is of its time and was way head of its time at the same time, the other track it a piece of adulterated shit, it’s a case of standing on the shoulders of giants, hoping for some controversy to gain some exposure , prostitution at its best, failed big time.

    1. “bittersweet symphony”
      I remember that they (The Verve) had this lame defense about making a “wall of sound” — which happened to consist 75% of someone else’s track.

    1. But to be fair, RUN got Aerosmith’s permission to do that and in turn became famous again
      Plus areosmith did make some money from that deal as well

      1. Aerosmith was about done until Run DMC covered that song. Then, we got another 10 years of bad ballads from Aerosmith. Thanks?

      2. Mate, you’re mixing it up with their “Walk This Way” tune. The one that “Nur Mir” has sampled from was either Run DMC “Peter Piper”, or as mentioned above – Bob James “Take Me to the Mardi Gras”, which is the original of all.

  10. I just listened to the video, the notes of the bass sound like the kraftwerk song , but other than that not muck of their sound, not like ice ice baby

    also it may be the fact the singer was a hottie that helped

  11. That group didn’t not make a Hip Hop song. I don’t know what that is, but it’s not Hip Hop. Also, lot’s of people have stolen from Kraftwerk….people all over the world.

  12. Strange to see Ralf reduce the significance of KW’s artistic contribution to a small sample of one piece of music. If anything, the sample is a testament to the band’s great influence.

  13. Okay I don’t usually weigh in on this forum but after listening to both tracks I felt I should.
    In my opinion, there are 3 main reasons I disagree with the ruling of the German court:

    1. Kraftwerk are known for their unusual rhythmic patterns, as well as their tonal palette.
    This song steals the beat AND the sounds. With a band like Kraftwerk, who’s aesthetic is quite minimalist, that’s pretty much 85 percent of the track!

    2. The blatant usage without any offer to include, compensate, or communicate in any way with the artist they have sampled (in this case Kraftwerk) shows a cavalier attitude to other’s work that I don’t think sets a good precedent.

    3. Coldplay singer Chris Martin reportedly wrote a letter to Ralf Hutter, asking for permission to use a group of notes in a song called “Talk” ( ) and the result was a copyright shared by the members of Coldplay and the members of Kraftwerk. This seems like a fair conclusion, with neither favored over another, and the people who worked to make the material can all benefit from the sales and AirPlay of the new hybrid copyright.

    By saying “it’s just what these guys do, it’s common practice in this genre” is like saying : “Look, these guys are bank robbers; it’s just what they do!”
    Sampling may be common practice but you either have to be stealthy in choosing or disguising what you sampled OR sample public domain material OR communicate with the original artist you want to make a new “hybrid” copyright with. That should be the law. The law should encourage mash-ups and sampling, by providing a legal framework for how to share the profits of a collaborative effort, not blatant exclude someone’s contribution on the argues that taking the entire beat is “marginal”
    This is wrong, even if there is layering of other material, the original source and spine of this track is someone else’s work.

  14. I have no problem with sampling but do find it tasteless how some artists go about it. Maybe a good compromise would be a minimum compensation rate if no formal contract/permission is sought/granted and a punitive compensation rate (at least double the minimum) if the sampling artist fails to acknowledge and/or pay the minimum. Would certainly keep complaints down and provide an avenue for creatives. A DJ or club is already paying royalties to artists – not sure how sampling should be excluded from this.

  15. Let’s say a neo nazi hip hop band (as an extreme example) samples your beats. Does this ruling prevent the original artist from stopping the band?

  16. I listened to both songs, the sampled drums are so back in the mix except for the beginning of the song that I don’t hear how this could be worth a lawsuit. if they were prominent or you heard a melody like Coldplay used (that was ok’d with kraftwerk) I could see the upset. It was more of a bit part to flesh out the main drums. I’m a long time kraftwerk fan but in this case I could see how they lost this lawsuit.

  17. What I don’t like about this is 1. they were not compensated for the use, tho the track made money. Even people who sell sample libraries at least get that. 2. Ethically it’s disturbing that this hip hop track, could for example be used on a advert for something that is not to the original owners liking i.e. politically or ethically.

  18. While i agree with both sides to some degree here – does anyone else think that kraftwerk is who they are today in the public conciousness BECUASE of illegal sampling.

    it’s hard to imagine an artist who has received more second hand exposure that became first hand exposure as kraftwerk…

    kraftwerk electros beats underpin a huge number of early elecronic dance, hiphop and most essentially “electro” music which is structurally nearly identical to mid career kraftwerk material. Nothing earlier or more influencial on US hiphop/electro scenes as Africa Bambatta’s planet rock.

    Ironically it was kraftwerk trying to sythesize/program the creative funk percussion of JB’s rhythm section that spawned this sound.

    Also say what you will about hiphop’s history of musical theft – can you argue that seminal masterworks in the genre have been created even fueling essentially new forms of music entirely…the sampler is an instrument that recontextualizes intelectual property.

  19. Herr Hütter needs to accept the new reality that musicians simply don’t make the same kind of money anymore. Music is a dime-a-dozen commodity now and he should be thankful he was artistically active in the time period he was.

    “Staving artist” was a romantic cliche once, but I bet most artists today would LITERALLY starve to death if they depended solely on their music revenue.

  20. What really surprises me is with Kraftwerk’s great basic songs no one has redid them up more modern, like blue monday and lady marmalade
    There are quite a few old time classics (pre EDM) that redone could be interesting

  21. I thought I had a pretty good ear for hearing Kraftwerk samples, but I couldn’t tell there was a sample from Metal On Metal in Nur Mir. Actually listened to both videos in full. The drum loop sounded like it was from a stock 90’s loop collection, like the CD I got with my sp303, not lifted from the Kraftwerk song. Seems like Ralf is grasping at straws, here. I’d note that the producer even admitting to sampling Kraftwerk, seems more like an homage to Kraftwerk and their long standing relationship to hip hop.

  22. Kraftwerk should work on making good music rather than filing lawsuits.

    That being said, I do think it’s nice to give credit where it is due.

  23. Many people make arguments without consideration for how laws are designed. Many laws protect you and your rights and they are written to be air-tight and based on principle, thus ensuring that billions of hours and $£€ aren’t wasted for every case. You have to draw a line somewhere.

    If you’re going to say that creating and publishing a recording entitles you, the creator, to control over it’s commercial use, you have to draw the line somewhere so as to prevent an insane amount of protracted discussions per case. The ability to select the license you provide is the solution. Just as a creator can use Creative Commons, he or she must absolutely retain the right to use the archaic Copyright, restrictive as it is.

    Let’s first of all disregard the discussion of sampling musical notes, that’s another discussion. We’re talking about audio recordings here. I think that if YOU create and publish an audio recording, then someone sampling (above a certain fidelity) more than 5 seconds of that recording, should require YOUR permission to publish for the purpose of commercial gain.

    If it is “no big deal” to sample audio for publishing and potential commercial gain, then just re-create the recording yourself and make a soundalike, then you might think twice about what effort and time and money it took. If you can get away with it, then go for it, but the bigger gain you make from it, the more likely it is that the original artist will find out. We have so many tools to create sound now.

    Keep copyright intact as an option and let society freely decide if they want to support an artist who exerts that degree of control. More choice in licensing options is the answer.

  24. Sampling is for crappy “musicians” that can’t come up with good sounds themselves. What a disgraceful state popular music has reached… Everything is allowed to make a profit.

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