Listen as Kraftwerk lose sampling copyright court case

Court rules hip-hop act was entitled to sample electronic pioneers.

Kraftwerk have lost a court case against a German rapper, who sampled the electronic pioneers without the band’s consent.

Moses Pelham sampled a two-second drum sequence from Kraftwerk’s 1977 song ‘Metal On Metal’ for the 1997 song ‘Nur Mir’, which Pelham wrote for fellow rapper Sabrina Setlur.

Kraftwerk mainstay Ralf Hutter initially sued Pelham in 2012 over the song, whose title translates as ‘Only Me’ Then, a German court ruled that ‘Nur Mir’ should be deleted, agreeing with Hutter that the repeated sample amounted to copyright infringement.

However, Pelham took the case to Germany’s court of appeal, which has now ruled that the song’s impact on Kraftwerk should not supersede Pelham’s “artistic freedom”.

A statement from the Bundesgerichtof (court of appeal) said that blocking samples like Pelham’s “Would practically exclude the creation of pieces of music in a particular style”. Hutter had argued that, as a fellow musician, Pelham should have sought Kraftwerk’s permission before sampling the section from ‘Metal On Metal’.

The Bundesgerichtof’s ruling means that Germany’s federal court must now examine the initial 2012 case afresh to reassess the case.

Before the ruling, the German music industry body GFUMI warned that, if Kraftwerk lost, an attitude of “Artistic freedom beats all” would have far-reaching consequences. GFUMI director Florian Druecke said: “Such a ruling would be grist to the mill for those who claim that everything should be free on the internet.”

‘Metal On Metal’ features on Kraftwerk’s album ‘Trans-Europe Express’. Since the album was made, Hutter is the only member of the four-piece who made ‘Trans-Europe Express’ who is still in Kraftwerk.

Kraftwerk play all eight of their albums at a residency at the Norwegian Opera House in Oslo from August 4-7, before embarking on a US tour in September.