Kraftwerk loses copyright case against hip-hop producer
19 years ago, Ralf Hütter, founding member of pioneering German electronic band Kraftwerk, filed a lawsuit against hip-hop producer Moses Pelham for using a two-second long drum loop sample from Kraftwerk’s song “Metall Auf Metall” (Metal On Metal) in Sabrina Setlur’s song “Nur Mir” (Only Me).
The first ruling happened in 2008, when Germany’s highest civil court ruled against Kraftwerk. However, in 2012, the highest court for non-constitutional legal matters reversed the decision, stating that Pelham could have easily recorded the drum loop himself instead of sampling it.
After this ruling, Pelham’s defense attorney asked the constitutional court to reassess the case, which ended four years later in the decision against Pelham being overturned. In the most recent ruling, the court recognized the importance of sampling in the hip-hop genre, stating that artists should have the freedom to create without restriction or risk of financial loss due to copyright claims as long as the new piece using the sample does not cause significant financial harm to the patent owners by competing directly with the original.