German electro-pop heavyweights, Kraftwerk, have failed in their attempt to prevent a rapper using a two-second sample of music from their hit, Metal auf Metal.
Originally formed in the early 1970's Kraftwerk's robotic and futuristic style of music was groundbreaking when it was released. The signature sound of much of their work being the 'vocoder' (otherwise a voice synthesizer). Germany's highest court, the Federal Constitutional Court, has ruled in favour of hip-hop producer Moses Pelham over a sample of music (specifically a drum beat) used in Sabrina Setlur's 1997 track, "Nur Mir" ("Only Me"). Kraftwerk's front man Ralf Hutter sued Pelham, alleging that his use of the clip, without asking for permission, infringed the band's copyright. However, the Federal Constitutional Court said the sequences were only seconds long and "Led to the creation of a totally new and independent piece of work."
The Federal Constitutional Court believed that blocking Pelham's sample would "practically exclude the creation of pieces of music in a particular style" and further held that the impact on Kraftwerk did not outweigh "artistic freedom".
The ruling is a blow for Hutter as he was successful in his claim for copyright infringement in 2012. When the case came before the lower Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) the court ruled that Setlur's song should no longer be promoted, agreeing with Hutter that it amounted to copyright infringement.
Following the most recent decision the Federal Constitutional Court has remitted the case back to the Federal Court of Justice, stating that it must reassess the case.
in: Case Law, Copyright, EU/International, News