There are countless instances of music being stolen. We see it on the ground level quite often, and see it at different levels, from DJs playing mixes in clubs that they didn’t make (and leaving the vocal drops in so we know who made it), to renaming a file so a producer is taking complete credit for something they didn’t make at all. Getting caught doing these things can ruin your career.
Some of us come from sample-based culture, and know that there is this grey line. There are two major differences between now and 20 years ago: Clearing samples is actually much more difficult, and there are so many people making music that there’s no way to chase down every song that is using samples. Artists seem to think that giving away records for free somehow frees them of copyright infringement; SoundCloud wouldn’t be flagging you for your Rihanna remix if you were in compliance.
Yet when you sell a record, whether it be to a rapper or on iTunes or for a commercial, you are responsible for getting that sample cleared. This goes below the radar more often than you would think. There are probably tens of thousands of songs with uncleared samples being sold on iTunes. If the release doesn’t chart or get a mass of plays, you probably won’t have people come knocking on your door, but when widely-known producers sample lesser-known work, and sell that work, they create a huge mess. Baauer and will.i.am are two producers that had the spotlight on them recently, and DAD figured we'd speak to a lawyer (Justin Chapman from The Law Office of T. Justin Chapman, LLC) in an effort to help those out there that have their work stolen and sold.
This article should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult a lawyer concerning your own situation with any specific legal question you may have.