As a hip hop artist or producer, chances are that eventually you will be dealing with samples. Using a hot sample can turn a good song into a breakout hit. Most people, however, don’t know about the legal consequences of using a sample without permission. Even if you are a regional artist with a small audience, getting samples cleared could protect you from a world of legal troubles later on, should your track catch fire. The copyright owners could sue for ALL payments earned by you. Also, they could have your release shelved if you don’t clear them ahead of time.
Two Owners – Two Clearances
You’ll need to get permission to use your sample from two sources. The first is the owner/publisher of the copyright. It is usually easy to find the copyright owner – use the title of the song being sampled to search ASCAP or BMI for this information. The second source you’ll need clearance from is the owner of the master recording. Usually, this is the record label, although in some cases this may be the artist or a third party. Sometimes, the information for the owner of the master recording can be found alongside the publishing rights, so check the publishers as well.
How Much is This Going to Cost?
The more popular the artist whose work you are sampling is, the more expensive it will end up costing. In these cases, you may not ever make that investment back. In addition, some artists may not permit their work to be used no matter what the situation is. You can try negotiating with the artist for a lower fee yourself or seek the advice of an entertainment lawyer. Using a lawyer may cost even more money, but could save you a lot of the trouble that comes with filling out legal paperwork and drawing up contracts.
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