Fair Use or not? An 18-year legal battle for 2 seconds of music – Sabrina Setlur

The music scene hasn’t heard from female rapper Sabrina Setlur for a while and I wonder if she’s still involved. But the fact you’re reading about her today is that she and her label have been in a legal battle for 18 years, because they used two seconds of somebody elses song and didn’t ask for a license. Should that be coverd by the fair use principle?

Whereas the discussion of sampling mostly considered the level of creativity so far, the question of copyright and fair use has been put on the backburner. From Setlur’s point of view, this is clearly a question of artistic freedom. Legally it’s somebody elses – copyrighted – work.

Setlur has published a song called “Nur mir” (only – for- me) , 1997, in wich two seconds of “Metall auf Metall”, a song by the famous group Kraftwerk, had been looped.

It was one of Setlur’s hits.

As said before, it doesn’t matter how little you infringe on somebody else’s copyright, Fair Use will only save you, if the judge decides so.

And the judges of the Federal High Court of Justice decided in this case in 2012, that fair use, even of the tiniest bits of music, is NOT applicable, if those bits are so simple, an average music producer could create them him-/herself. Meaning if the producer is just too lazy to create the bits himself, he should pay the artist who’s material he’s using.

Let me remind, you, that would still be a copyright infringement, but one of the kind that’s more likely to be covered by the fair use principle.

The upcoming decision will deal with the question, if sampling leads to financial damages for the other label or if the “no fair use”-decision from 2012 curtails creators of music in their artistic freedom of self-fulfillment.

What is YOUR take on sampling and fair use? Let me know in the comments down below!

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