How to Obtain Sample Clearance?

Discussion in 'Working in the Industry' started by SyMTiK, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. SyMTiK

    SyMTiK Christopher B.

    Hey guys!

    I know this pertains to a genre that isn’t super prominent on this forum, but since it deals with legal stuff, I figured some people here would know more than I do.

    So I’ve been working with a rapper on an album for a while, and recently created a beat for him per his request based around a portion of the score from Harry Potter (1:35-1:47 of Hedwigs Theme to be exact)

    Now first off this beat has not at all been put out publicly yet, as I want to figure out exactly what sort of permission I need in order to put it out there publicly without fear of legal consequences.

    I would really love to have the opportunity to put this track in particular out there because I believe it might have the potential to be a hit track, same way Chill Bill by Rob $tone was a few years ago, following a similar idea of sampling a popular motif from a film score. But, I’d rather not kill my career right off the bat, getting sued without proper sample clearance xD

    It is also worth noting I did not use the master recording - i recreated the section myself using virtual instruments.

    Any and all advice is appreciated!
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
  2. Land of Missing Parts

    Land of Missing Parts Flibbertyjibbit

    Jan 27, 2013
    I'm no lawyer, of course, but I imagine you'd want to ask yourself:

    1) How much have I changed the sample to make it my own unique expression? Lawyers sometimes weigh something they call "transformative" value. (Think the Shepard Fairey Obama poster for example.)

    2) How recognizable will it be in the original? In other words, will anyone even know?

    3) The piece that is taken, how much of it contains the "heart" of the idea from the original? Not all parts of a song are equal. For example, maybe look up Dire Straits using Sting's riff in Money for Nothing. They used a small portion, but it was the heart of Don't Stand So Close to Me.

    4) How much play will the song actually get? If the song doesn't get a lot of play, chances are no one will care. If it's a hit, it'll likely be a problem. But then again, having a hit might be an enviable position to be in.

    There's not many franchises bigger than Harry Potter, and most franchises don't even have a recognizable motif. I believe you could take anyone on the street and play them the first few bars of Hedwig's theme and nine out of ten would immediately identify it as Harry Potter's music (in the US and UK at least).
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
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  3. MatFluor

    MatFluor Senior Member

    Jan 11, 2017
    Also, important which country you are in (or the rapper).

    E.g. in the Netherlands you can sample up to 10s legally, here in Switzerland None. Permission to use would be given by the copyright holder, in this case I think Warner Brothers. And then if course the royalties must flow ;)
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  4. Polkasound

    Polkasound Senior Member

    Apr 20, 2016
    Milwaukee, WI
    Since you recreated the Harry Potter music part yourself and did not sample the original recording, I don't think sample clearance even applies. I believe you would simply secure a mechanical license for it as if it were a cover song. [This is assuming movie soundtracks can be mechanically licensed like other recorded music. I know nothing about movie soundtracks.]
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  5. Nao Gam

    Nao Gam Dirty little gearslut

    Apr 1, 2018
    Sell it as a cover
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  6. d.healey

    d.healey Music Monkey

    Nov 2, 2011
    Ask a lawyer who deals with this kind of thing
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  7. Beluga

    Beluga Arctic and sub-Arctic cetacean

    Jun 6, 2018
    You need permission from the copyright owners. I’d simply get in touch with them. There is probably a fee and a revenue share. Since you recreated the music you do not need permission to use the master recording which is a huge plus. I’d strongly recommend you do not go down the will they even recognise - did I change enough route. And yes you’ll probably need a lawyer, too.
  8. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

    Nov 13, 2007
  9. fretti

    fretti Senior Member

    As @d.healey already said: ask a (copyright) lawyer.
    Afaik there's a rather big difference between intentional copying, sampling etc. when it comes to copyright and/or lawsuits. So it's really something you should seek professional opinions from people dealing with that kind of stuff on a daily basis to be 99% sure (and even then, if the song is to popular, they'll find a way to make more money out of it).

    People like Taylor Swift or Pharrell Williams etc. all were accused of doing it (I'll stay with accused here as I don't know the results of lawsuits etc.); but the difference is obviously that they have studios with a "little" money to always be able to just buy themselves out if necessary.
    And when I look at what happened to people who claimed that JK Rowling copied from their books, I'd rather not take the chance to get into any legal issues with that franchise...

    BTW: at least in Germany, a cover has to be performed almost exactly as the original afaik, so if one only takes a few seconds of music, or performs another lyrics over the music, it's no cover anymore...

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