Deadmau5, acting mousey. Photo (CC) iamdonte.

Who’s sampling what? When is sampling stealing? Who’s stolen sampled samples, and was the sampling stolen stealing? Is anyone actually playing live? Does anyone know what the law is? Does anyone care?

Yes, it’s been a lively November so far for massive, complicated legal battles, PR battles, who-said-who-sampled-what battles, and general sampling messiness. Here’s a quick round-up for those of you who haven’t been able to keep up (understandably).

And we’re going to play a game. I’m going to start talking, and you can see at what point your head starts to spin and you need to go lie down.


Here’s the executive summary:

  • Justice steal samples and talk about it, because you can’t recognize them.
  • US courts said long ago “nowhere to run, nowhere to hide,” to the dismay of even the RIAA.
  • German courts, disagreeing with the US and with other German courts, say it don’t mean a thing if you can’t hum along.
  • FL Studio turns “Faxing Berlin” Deadmau5 demo content into “Berlin” mostly-the-same demo content and a bunch of people start screaming obscenities at each other and most of us lose interest.
  • Justice can’t keep their USB cables from falling out, may have to pirate samples of themselves.
  • The Killers (or MTV, more to the point) plagiarize an entire stage.
  • My head hurts already.

Justice. Photo (CC) Caesar Sebastian.

1. Justice admits they steal samples. French duo Justice admitted to borrowing the likes of 50 Cent without clearance because “they are such short samples no one can recognize them.” (See Beatportal story.)

Of course, the fact that they’re non-recognizable is kind of defeated if you talk about them. In a sane legal world, a completely unrecognizable sample warped until it might as well have come from a field recording of tree frogs wouldn’t be litigation bait. But this is the United States. As I covered way back in early 2005 for Keyboard Magazine, the standing circuit court decision in the US says all sampling is illegal, whether it’s recognizable or not. The elimination of what lawyers call a de minimis (plain English: common sense minimum) standard actually got the RIAA and the plaintiffs concerned about over-litigation. (Yes, you read that right: the ruling was so stupid, the plaintiffs appealed a case they themselves had just won.)

Don’t like it? Move to Germany. No, really.

Why is this man not smiling? Well, because it’s a Kraftwerk performance. But now there’s another reason – no legal love for Maestro Schneider and crew. Photo (CC) Daniele Dalledonne.

2. German court says sampling is fine, unless you can whistle the sample. Kraftwerk suffered a legal defeat that made it (via Associated Press) all the way to the front page of It seems a court in Hamburg said what US courts did – no matter how small, sampling is illegal. The highest civil court in Germany says the opposite, but then goes on to be explicit about what constitutes illegal sampling (if un-cleared):

The civil court ruling, however, forbids sampling of a song melody and insists that the sample must be part of a completely new musical work bearing no resemblance to the original.

What’s interesting about this: the length and nature of the sample of Kraftwerk (two seconds of rhythm from “Metal on Metal,” as used un-cleared by Sabrina Setlur) is the same as the sample in the US civil case (two seconds of Funkadelic’s “Get Off Your Ass and Jam” as used in N.W.A.’s “100 Miles and Runnin.”) That’s neither here nor there, except to say if you sample anything in a recognized track, some court somewhere will probably make your life miserable, especially with no international framework to smooth out the difficulties. (Case in point: the US samples had been cleared by N.W.A. – the movie studio No Limit simply forgot to clear the samples in the song for sync rights when they used it in a film.)

Fruity loops. Photo (CC) Vox Efx.

3. FL Studio user uses demo loops, meets irate Deadmau5. Thanks to reader Scott Metzger for tipping us off on this one. FL Studio 8 ships, as do many programs, with included loops. It also comes with demo content. An FL 8 user released a track that uses some of that demo content almost wholesale. Now, some people are defending the FL user, because Image-Line says its loops are released royalty free. (They claim they never said that explicitly about demo content, causing confusion.) Image-Line clearly should have been more explicit about this, or this might not have happened. But royalty-free sampling is one thing – plagiarism is another. The user in this case released a track that basically was Deadmau5’s Faxing Berlin. He even copied the name, calling his track “Berlin.” (Smooth.) It’s almost not different enough to count as a remix. I could make some general criticism, except that he’s already been roundly flamed in especially colorful terms by the FL forum users.

I’m still looking for ways of getting a laugh from fellow nerdsters by sneaking some of the roundly-despised Ableton demo track into a set. But, in case your eyes haven’t already glazed over, here are more of the gruesome details of this story.

FL Studio user faces legal action for using built-in samples [MusicRadar, who have more patience for digging through this story than I do]

Don’t use FL Studio loops! [FutureMusic, inadvertently giving users some good advice]

Lesson: software developers, label your loops. (And in all seriousness, it does sound as though Image-Line has lost some of their credibility on this one.) Users, don’t … do this, okay? Just don’t. We can hear you. We can hear those stupid Garage Band loops, too, for crying out loud. Or, alternative names, how about “IMing Hamburg” or “Skyping Munich” or “Snail Mailing Frankfurt”? Maybe change your name to L1v3M0us3 or Deadr4t. I’ll stop. We’re no
t even done with this damned round-up yet. There’s more.

I’m glad no one is watching my sets this closely. Maybe Justice were testing wireless USB? Photo: Beatportal.

4. Justice, the Milli Vanilli of Our Time? In case Justice weren’t in trouble enough already telling MTV they’re sampling illegally, they’ve got MPDgate to contend with. Beatportal showed an image of them grooving away with an MPD24 that was, rather inconveniently unplugged. (Their answer: the cable fell out.) Don’t worry, though, Justice fans — Resident Advisor springs into action with a series of photos that would do Oliver Stone’s JFK proud. (There it is – a loose USB cable on the grassy knoll! The screen gone blank, then on again in the Book Depository! Again! Change the angle!)

I’m inclined to give Justice the benefit of the doubt, especially because I care less about this one gig than I do about this outrageous comment by Beatportal’s Terry Church:

Anyone with a shred of understanding of how the music is made knows that it’s near impossible to play electronic music 100% live, unless you have the talent of somebody like The Bays.

Of course, if it were 100% live, it wouldn’t be electronic music. (You could get really literal and claim that you have to be Bobby McFerrin and not even use instruments.) But taking this as I think Terry meant it, uh, Terry, the entire readership of this site has something they’d like to discuss with you.

He also didn’t say “play electronic music 100% live well,” which means for each time one of us has screwed up catastrophically onstage by getting overcomplicated with live sets, we’ve done our bit to demonstrate that we’re not faking it. Unless the USB jack fell out, in which case, no photos!

But yes, I think we can safely say Justice are performing clips they stole from 50 Cent completely live.

Sing along! “One of these things is almost exactly like the others.” Comparison by Anti VJ. (Alternatively, "Somebody told me / you did a stage install / that looked like a stage install / that Etienne de Crecy / did at the end of last year…")

5. Killers Plagiarize / Sample an Entire Stage. Okay, forget about two-second samples or even FL Studio demo songs. How about if you showed up in motorcycle helmets and a giant pyramid that looked exactly like Daft Punk? Erm, not in a tongue-in-cheek, parody sort of way.

Etienne de Crecy did a live stage show in France with giant projections mapped to a big cube, as produced by the talented Exyzt crew in Paris. Then, US band The Killers does … exactly the same thing?

Exyzt installation Ripped off by “the Killers”

In fact, the two were so much alike that over at Create Digital Motion, we just assumed it was another Exyzt install job. (Apparently, that isn’t so; even if it were, uh, novelty wears off a bit when you do exactly the same thing with another artist.)

Originality. Try it. It’s amazing.

You know what, by contrast have at those two seconds of rhythm that no one can recognize anyway.

(In fairness, as Wallace points out, MTV is likely to blame here. The Killers were just playing in the cubes and, most likely, were not directly responsible for the stage design.)

How’d you score?

How far did you get before you had to lie down, or strum an original tune on a ukulele? (Wait, damnit, that sounds just like “All the Things You Are.”) Let us know in comments.

  • In Germany sampling in generla is allowed, but i's forbidden to use melodies. When is a beat a melody or vice versa.
    I also love Poladroid. it#s a lovely app.


    • danilo

      this is totally wrong!

      even in germany you got the "neighbouring right" ("leistungsschutzrecht").

  • This Deadmau5/FLStudio story gets weirder and worse the more I read about it.

    There's a Front Line Assembly track that has a loop reminding me very much of one of the drumloops that comes with FLStudio. I don't know if one come from the other, both came from some other source, or it's purely a coincidence. I kinda don't want to know because I like FLA.

  • brett w

    I imagine one of the "big samples" Justice had to get clearance on was the Tenebre theme. It's all over 2 tracks.

    I'm gonna have to go back and listen to the album cause i'm curious where Slipknot ties in. 🙂

  • This post makes me want to start sampling the tar out of everything I listen to.

    People need to pull our whatever it is they have rammed so far up their backside.

    One of my favourite quotes is "Man doesn't create. He re-arranges."

    Go create.

  • Wow, that's weird. I was just strumming "Over the Rainbow" on a ukulele as I read this last paragraph.
    Hmm. Maybe I should record it so Justice can sample it. Would it be the copyrighted song that is wronged, or my "performance?" (My performance is wronging the song as it is, but that's another comment.)

    Nice post Peter. I kept up. And I swear to god about the ukulele. Weird.

  • NDV

    The whole sampling story is presumably gonna get more complicated in a couple of months with the new Melodyne DNA technology –
    Sampling *and* changing the harmonic content of the sample. A whole new headache for the German law system…

  • <blockquote cite="Albert Einstein">The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.<cite>


  • this website features a bunch of videos of "live" acts faking it.

    I can't remember where I got this link from, but it was a blog posting in the past week or two.

  • J. Phoenix

    Goodness, if that isn't a lot of controversy.

    I think an intelligent discussion on CDM breaking down honest-to-God live electronic music could be most interesting.

  • Wallace Winfrey

    If the deadmau5 samples are part of the "demo content", then how come they're not identified in any way, shape or form as being so-called "demo content" ? On a stock FLStudio8 install, the loops in question, LP_Faxing Berlin A_128bpm.ogg and LP_Faxing Berlin C_128.bpm can both be found in Packs->Loops->Drum Loops & Packs->Loops->Melody Loops, respectively. Nothing about it being "demo content" or "for display purposes only". Also before we get too snarky about DC using the name Berlin, let's keep in mind the phrase "Berlin" IS in both of those loop names.

    Also, not only are these loops not in a "demo" section of FL Studio 8's browser, there's absolutely NOTHING written about some loops being for "demo purposes" only in any of the documentation, not the FL Studio 8 Reference Manual, not the "Getting Started" booklet that accompanies the boxed version. At least, nothing as far as I could tell.

    That Image-Line is now trying to say that the loops in question were obviously demo content or anything of the sort is shameful, IMO. They obviously don't want to lose deadmau5 as a high-profile user of FLStudio, and coming right out and saying that the loops were for anyone to use might incline deadmau5 to do just that.

    Seriously, if this does wind up in court, I see either a deadmau5 or an Image-Line with egg on their face. Somebody should tell deadmau5 too that, in the music game, you attract more flies with sugar than with shit, and he's essentially coming off as a huge asshole in this story. I'm sure he's a nice guy in person, but his quarrel is not with Dirty Circuits, it's with Image Line.

  • I've always considered the demo / loop content that comes with FL Studio to be of questionable provenance. Maybe it's more obvious when you have been using it since the old Fruity Loops – I recall a note-for-note remake of Binary Finary's "1998" and a Faithless song ("God is a DJ" maybe?) being included as demos in earlier versions.

    I love the software but I wouldn't trust their samples even if they claimed to be royalty-free.

  • I agree, Wallace … but that's sort of my point; both sides are in the wrong here. It's certainly your right to piece together a demo song almost verbatim and pass it off as your own if the content is licensed accordingly. But the forum reacted violently because, legal issues aside, it amounted to plagiarism. Legally, you're absolutely right — I don't think Image-Line and Deamau5 have a leg to stand on here. It seems they actually made up the bit about them *not* being covered under a royalty-free license. The user agreement might sign away those rights or something bizarre, but the FL users are right to be rattled on that. And you have to wonder, if Deadmau5 wanted to protect that song, why did he license it to I-L in the first place?

    So, yeah, the whole thing seems like a train wreck on top of a train wreck, and it's safe to say no one — not the forum users, the user in question, Deadmau5, or Image-Line — is handling it gracefully. That would put the onus on Image-Line to handle the situation better, because they're not a touchy artist or a forum troll and it *is* their product. So that is especially disappointing.

  • ludo

    justice sampled a whole Goblins album. Daft punk used a edwin birdsong's 4 bar loop to make 'faster, stronger…'. S-express theme is only a rose royce sample. that's house music, i guess…

  • Windexter

    They sample other peoples' music, so just download theirs without paying. How's that for justice?

  • Rhythmik

    <blockquote cite="The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.">

    No the secret to creativity is sharing your sources.w

  • Demie

    yah, i think the "factory preset" or "factory loop" case is in part why FL seems to be regarded as a toy and nobody takes these musicians seriously, which is deeeeepressing.


    -Ronco Popeil

  • this is all very interesting. having performed live electronic music for years now, i can say i have seen plenty of other folks that really are faking it and making it look easy. and then when i go up and sweat my face off trying to juggle 16 tracks, capture live loops, and keep it interesting, it makes me look bush league for being so scatterbrained and unpredictable. There are people that can tell the difference and appreciate my efforts, and there are people that could care less if i was pressing play on an ipod. in the end i think it is worthwhile to work hard for your art and some people will get something very positive from it. Meanwhile the people that don't notice the guy faking it, prolly won't remember who we were anyway. Those are the same people that would come and watch my old electro-jazz fusion band perform for 3 hours and then tell me how good the lead singer was. We had no singer, no vocals, granted the saxaphonist used a microphone, must have been confusing.

    On the other topic, i've created tons of demo and factory content for the german software giants and while I do try to make sounds that are useful and relevant I would never hand over anything that I plan to use for myself, there is no point in doing that. The whole idea of providing content to manufacturers is that they own the content, and users of the final product buy into ownership of the content. You make it for them to use. So when they use it, you can't get pissed off, you were paid to give away the goodies! Good read as usual Dr. Kirn.

  • <blockquote cite="Peter Kirn">
    And you have to wonder, if Deadmau5 wanted to protect that song, why did he license it to I-L in the first place?

    Well, we don't exactly what the terms of that license was, but I think it's safe to say that it wasn't for royalty free use by end users.

    <blockquote cite="Peter Kirn">
    That would put the onus on Image-Line to handle the situation better, because they’re not a touchy artist or a forum troll and it *is* their product. So that is especially disappointing.

    That, I think, is the real story here; Image-Line are handling this in a really unprofessional manner.

  • Well, in I-L's defense, they may simply feel backed into a corner on this one. Deadmau5 is a big name right now, and he's really the biggest celeb associated with their product. Anyway, the mistake was not covering that ground adequately when the product was released — at least from what I can tell happened.

  • maybe its just me
    but does anyone else just throw out demo content and sound banks / presets in favor of making their own?

    the first thing i do when installing a new synth is rip out the preset guts.
    but then again i like starting with a blank slate

    and i loathe sampling
    unless its damaged beyond recognition
    like turning a micro second of the smiths into a kick drum
    or something

  • proem, I'm with you. And not for some sort of pretentious reason, either; sometimes for the practical reason of not having 40GB of free drive space, and sometimes because all that preset content is a huge creative block. I just installed Kontakt and Battery again and left out almost all the sample content, just to go out and record stuff and have that blank slate.

    You know, the only exception is when I know the person who designed the content personally. I set up Kore, for instance, to filter by name, and so I'll go and listen to Richard Devine's stuff. I got to know some of the Apple people and in the metadata you can find out that it's actually them playing this piano loop. I know who designed which presets for part of Ableton Live. But then, that just proves this rule: I usually go listen to them, then clean them out again, and I listen to them because I have a connection with the person who created them. That's what's missing when it's anonymous sampling.

  • Speaking of which, any particular reason installers can't let you disable this stuff more often? Some are good about it. Most aren't. It's liberating to see a blank menu with a synth, even. Seriously.

  • Wallace Winfrey

    I think any time you include loops with a product, you can expect that somewhere, sometime – somebody is gonna use that loop in a track and release it somewhere, especially when there's really no ambiguity about use of the loops (all ambiguity about the included loops in this story, one notices, is *after* the fact). Use of stock samples undoubtedly happens all the time but nobody notices, so when we do notice, we get all bent out of shape and talk about how uncreative the user is. Zzzzz….it's all so — besides the point.

    The bottom line is, let's not confuse the issue of stock loop aesthetics with the legality of using stock loops. deadmau5 threatening to sue DirtyCircuits and calling him a "thief" and a "tool" is what this story's all about, and IL and deadmau5 don't have a leg to stand on – period.

  • poopopp

    @Peter, sorry but not deleting presets because you know Richard Devine personally is some sort of pretentious reason 😀

  • alzen

    Great read! Being from Germany myself I can add that this certain court in Hamburg is rather notorious for it's strange decisions when it comes to modern media related issues…
    Also, the issue of sampling and the need to report samples used has been taken on by a German artist who created a song from thousands of samples and reported every single one of them to show just how hilarious the laws are at this point. Quite funny, actually:

  • Max

    The story about Justice faking their live-set gets really weird…

    Just imagine this situation: Something goes wrong during your gig, e.g. a cable gets unplugged. Would you stop playing and shout in the crowd "sorry, my mpd just broke" or would you pretend to do some weird filtering-stuff while trying to fix the problem and get the set running again?
    I would do the latter and i think, that's what Justice did too.

    And it's really interesting how some silly picture can buzz the blogosphere – I wrote an article about that very topic myself 😉

  • jkant

    They can't stop it. Sampling is music evolution. Even Bach 'sampled' Vivaldi… 🙂
    No fear, please, do it again!!

  • As "NDV" already posted – i'm curios of the new new melodyne direct note access technology.

    If you are able to change the whole sample is it still "sampling"?

    Can't wait to get my hands on the new melodyne next year to test how far you can go with it

  • GlassX

    I also deleted the Ableton Live presets and content… After installing I deleted the packs for Lessons and Default, before first-opening it. It is indeed liberating. The only presets I miss are the Beat Repeat ones 🙂

    If Reason had a way to start fresh I'd probably update it (I have the MBox version) and use it as an scratchpad for simple synth tunes or as a giant VSTi.

  • i would comment on this but am too afraid to sample anybody else's words. i sure hope the words i used here have not been used by somebody else before, or they might sue me. i think they should kill all parrots or stop them from talking after people constantly. that sucks.
    yesterday, i got busted by the Stop-Sampling-people while whistling a tune that they claimed sounded exactly like Mozart. until then i had no idea my whistling was that good.

  • splaat!

    Check justice's myspace. They have that pic as their profile photo. Also they have 2 other photos with their akai plugged.
    I was hoping this was the end of this overrated band 😛

  • @poopopp: Look, Richard's a really cool guy to geek out with. I only met him personally recently, so now I feel like I have a sense of the dude himself; before that I always enjoyed his sound designs for NI because they had such character, and they were out there — not the usual generic fare. Ditto Francis Preve who does a lot of the Ableton sound designs. I go, I play with the presets, we talk about stuff that normal people really shouldn't talk about.

    Since when is geeking out with friends pretentious; isn't that kinda clear that's what this site is about, at least in part?

    And when I delete presets, again, it's not because I think I'm a superior sound designer or something (yipes, far from it); I just enjoy the process of building sounds.

    @splaat – the unplugged Akai is Justice's *profile photo*? Now that's funny. Maybe they're just messing with us.

    @Kapo: Pretty easy answer. According to *current* German rulings, no — not in Germany. According to the standing US ruling, yes, that's infringement. The US legal precedent is so extreme that a lot of people are avoiding clearance altogether. A whole lot of people in the hip-hop community – the ones who (possibly unfairly) arguably got hit hardest with litigation – have gone to recording instruments. And that to me remains the

    I'll admit, the FL situation deserves a little more attention to the issue of what the stated license with FL is. I'll have a follow up. I'll also see if there's an official statement from Image-Line.

  • gbsr

    i made it through the whole article. didnt feel tired, nor did my head spin, infact i want to read more. this is a very important topic in todays music scene what with all the tools to sample anything at any time. for me, id sample anything at any time and use it in my work, its not about the sources its about the final product.

    you want to take copyright infringement seriously? goodbye pop-art.

    imo, the only reason there is such a hectic witch hunt on people committing the horrendous crime of copyright infringement is because the whole system is slowly dying. the reason we have it is to protect the art and the work of the artists when in fact it does nothing but prevent new art. well, thats not true either since theres a whole anti copyright scene brewing that gets their inspiration solely from committing copyright infringement.

    some people gets through the roof about this, me? i love it. what would the world be without the grey album?

    i say get rid of the current system and apply the system suggested by some guy on a blog somewhere (perhaps even read it here, cant remember) which is basicly: you have copyright from the day you register and 5 years from that. after a 5 year period you need to apply for another 5 year, otherwise it falls under public domain. if the work is commercially viable then its worth re-registering for another 5 years, otherwise you let it free for people to use and abuse. this will not only help build a giant library of works for people to whatever they feel like, but it will also even encourage people to re-write old works into new works, thus encouraging the whole scene in general.

    so, if i take a recorder and go out and do some field recording, make a blockbuster song that brings me my 15 minutes of fame and a big of cash in a small amount of time, how should i handle that sample? what if (god forbid) i accidently sampled someones conversation? perhaps a mobile phone ringtone? perhaps even a short snippet of a commercial song playing on the radio when i happened to pass by?

    the only reason we have this stupid law in the first place is so that the big labels can continue to re-release the same old shit and continue making money from the same old shit. why they are scared shit right now is because they know that they cant stop it, but they wont let it roam free because that means that the consumers would control the content of the market and not the other way around as it is now. a buisiness-mans worst nightmare, letting the consumers control your product, and not the other way around.

  • gbsr

    also: i agree that deadmau5 should just let it go. infact, if hes stupid enough to release something with sources in a package then he shouldnt even have a case in the first place.

    not saying it was right of the FL user to do what he did (although it feels a bit like he did it just to prove a point), but the fact that deadmau5 even raises a voice about this is just ridiculous.

    you released the sourcefiles man, what did you expect? the source files as a part of a demo, ofcourse someone will sometime, somewhere, use it. get with the program.

  • Paco

    It continues to be wierd to me that so many readers of such a progressive music making site are still so anti-sample of any kind, especially in 2008 (but in 1988 or 1888 too). wierd…

  • gbsr

    i hope disney sues him. i mean, hes practically mickey mouse.

  • @Paco: I don't know, are people anti-sample, or are they just not getting a sense of originality from these particular uses? (and some people are obviously decidedly *not* anti-sample, they're frustrated with the law)

    The NWA song is actually a really good example. The sample is completely reimagined. It's a totally original song; the use of the sample was at least partly a political statement. (More overt: the "Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide" sample.) It wasn't recycling someone's music into something else; it was really a creative process. Under the recent German ruling, it'd be thrown out.

    I think there is resistance to sampling as a lego-block approach to music, where things aren't reimagined, and there isn't original music happening. Now, obviously, no one here is arguing for the kind of draconian approach the US intellectual property law has taken, and no one is saying they want to censor anybody's output. But I think a "progressive" forum would be exactly the right place to say, jeez, at some point, make your own music, go play your guitar badly and that'll be way more interesting — it'll be you. That wasn't in any way what the early sampling movement was about in hip hop, and it's not even really DJing or remixing either at a certain point – it's just people who are trapped by these samples.

    That's separate from the FL issue, though — if a software company releases royalty-free sample content and then reverses course, that's obviously bad for all of us.

  • cubestar

    I personally delete my all of my sound card drivers, because why should my music sound sooooo…. "MOTU"???

    But for cereal, it always ticked me off going to laptop battles where composers and improvers were constantly losing out to pre-warped funk & hiphop Ableton DJs waiving their arms around and wooting while possibly launching a new scene from time to time from their keyboard.

    Iz funny, cause I love Ableton, just not for that…

  • If Justice get in the deep end for this I think it is safe to say that it didn't happen for altruistic "you should be making your own music" reasons. It's gonna simply be because they have now put themselves in position where some publishers may be able to ring money out of them.
    I don't think anyone that has anything to do with music or the music industry can suggest that the artistic value of what Justice does is compromised in anyway by liberal microsampling, as no matter what position you take that simply isn't the case. All they did was create the possibility of being sued by admitting it openly.
    Hopefully if it comes to that the judge should be able to see the kind of pure entrepreneurship that would drive the legal dispute to court and throw the case out. Otherwise it would effectively mean making a valid and creative studio technique illegal.

  • jahlove

    listen to it till the end…

  • tobamai

    I certainly agree with deleting presets and stock loops. Presets in synth can be handy to show you what kind of sounds the synth is capable of, but like stock loops I never want to use them. I don't want anything I'm working on to sound stock. Who wants their music to sound like parts were just unwrapped and then dropped in? That's like a formula for elevator music.

    When I hear a song that's entirely uninspired I can often pick out stock loops (especially drums). Mainstream pop songs are notorious for this (they won't even hire a session drummer? come on!), but you hear it in lots of dance music too. All I can think is that if they didn't have the prepackaged goods available, they would have been forced to come up with something on their own. But there's no way companies will stop offering stock loops, a sale to an uninspired musicians is still a sale.

    That's not to say that sampling is bad or even using stock samples is bad. The real point I should get at is that dropping in a loop or a preset synth that we've all heard before isn't very interesting. If you can find a new way to play back the amen break, go for it, I'll listen. But if you're going to loop it just as it was played as the 'break' in your track, then you're track will sound like exactly what it is: part of someone else's track copied into your own. If you use a stock loop or you sample something, find a new, interesting way to present it.

    Do something creative.

    What so wrong with the standing US court decision? If the sample is recognizable, the original artist deserves credit. If the sample is unrecognizable, then you won't end up in court. If the sample is unrecognizable and you brag that you're using samples that are unrecognizable, then you deserve to be in court for crediting a source but not including them in the profits.

    Lets say I shoot a movie and, entirely without his knowledge, Hugh Grant is in the background of a couple of scenes. He didn't act, he isn't a character, even when I point and tell you its him you can't tell. Hugh Grant is our unrecognizable sample. If I promote the movie by claiming he's in there, even if I say you can't tell, he deserves a portion of the profits — he was used as a promotional tool. If I stay quiet about it, no one will ever know and no one will ever care.

    I know, it's a weak metaphor. But if you're going to claim the benefits of sampling someone else, then the original artist deserves the benefits of being sampled. If you're going to give credit when it isn't due, you also need to share glory.

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  • I, personally, love sampling. One of my first big synth/instrument purchases many years ago was an AKAI hardware sampler (S2800 – still got it). But I basically learned to use it like a synth with the samples as a sort of starting 'waveform'. I'm basically of the 'mangle it beyond recognition' school, too.

    I am also a believer in the 'everything is borrowed' 'everything new just builds on the old' 'Mozart sampled Vivaldi' type of maxims as well. I prefer when someone considers borrowed stuff to be more of a homage, like when Jimi played 'All Along the Watchtower' (did he have to pay Dylan?). I play acoustic instruments as well, and like to think I come up with 'original' content for my work, but must concede that I am still a victim of my influences.

    I LOVE the Grey Album.

    I HATE factory patches/loops/presets.

    But what I really can't stand is when someone like Kanye West basically samples a Daft Punk song wholesale, unapologetically (which, in itself, contains direct samples from elsewhere, as mentioned above), and then goes around taking credit for coming up with something original. I mean, to the point where he claims he's the best out there, and some kind of creative genius. That's just sad and disingenuous, and the people that go for that nonsense are just really kind of ignorant.

    Anyway, great post.

  • Dougie

    (Sorry if I have inadvertently stolen sampled someone's name 😛 but felt like commenting)

    @gbsr: One of my sisters lectures at uni did that. He got arrested one day when he stopped outside a persons window to record the sound of the radio and their talking. I can't remember the charge, it was something like "intrusion of privacy".

    Generally: "Sampling" in the sense of stealing a particular tune has been around for centuries. The only difference is that this time around, it's easier. So, why do we need to start prosecuting now? Well, there are reasons. But, if it's a well-known tune, then, people will notice. What will their response be? No idea. But, if it isn't… Well, that's where I begin to care a little. Someone's taking credit for someone else's work. (effectively at least – when was the last time you read through the copyright liner notes for the artists they sampled? Actually, probably not the best place to make my point. Heh. I never have at least.)
    I personally think that you should give credit. And visible credit too. Maybe even with timestamps. Just so we can see. But, people still wouldn't care. That's their choice isn't it though. It's a difficult one though.

    Continuing what I said some unknown number of lines ago – if the sample is unrecognisable, it's not such a problem IMO. Even so, I have no doubt you can run a sample through some free filter without changing anything from the stock and get out something that's at least difficult to recognise. And, the creative process that? Not much, true. But you've done *something*. Which mightn't really qualify you for having made anything particularly good. But you've done something nonetheless.

    If that made no sense, sorry. I'm not good at putting ideas into words.. That and my copyright opinions are in a ball of tangled self-contradictory statements. Somewhere. In the back of my mind. I don't like it there.

  • oh man. I lose.
    I had to take a nap right after the first paragraph on Justice.
    Good read Dr. Kirn.

  • Phil

    With regards to the whole Justice thing, and hopefully with some sense of finality, I noticed this on beatportal:

    "I’m the resident photographer at Warehouse Project in Manchester. We recently had the Chibuku night with Justice headlining. It was the night were Gaspard’s MIDI controller was unplugged for a couple of minutes. I just thought I share one of my shots with you guys. You can clearly see Gaspard pluggin the USB lead back into the controller."

    So between this and the myspace pics pointed out in splaat!'s post, I think we have enough material to make some *hi-larious* gif animations.

  • Max

    Regarding presets: I was always unhappy using ready-made presets and avoided using them.
    But now i started a new project called "presetsurfer" where i do exactly the opposite thing. One of my basic rules is to use only ready-made presets – i am not allowed to modify them. I believe in the creative power of limitations in this world of endless choices…

    You can get an impression of the outcome at

  • robin parry

    don't use sample library's
    roll all my own sounds, about 2-3 months per keyboard
    never steal other peoples music, downloading mp3 for free
    don't use mp3's, crap format
    be original
    be happy
    collect money, $1500-$2000 per hour
    work more!!!, only 2 days this year

  • <blockquote cite="gbsr">
    you released the sourcefiles man, what did you expect? the source files as a part of a demo, ofcourse someone will sometime, somewhere, use it. get with the program.

    Thins is, they're not source files, the two samples in question are actually full 8 bar loops of the finished track; one of the drums from the beginning, and another with drums and the chord progression. So the end result is the same as if the other guy had simply sampled the original track directly, which is probably what deadmau5 assumed happened in the first place. It's certainly what it sounds like if you heard the track without the story behind it.

  • architectspiders

    just skimming and thought i'd create a comment by searching via rearrangement? interesting and relevant topic though…

  • CPRoth

    RE: 5. Killers Plagiarize / Sample an Entire Stage.

    NOT so fast kids. Having swam the pop-promo waters a few years before the Killers, I can tell you that:

    a) the BAND probably has no idea what or who "Exyzt" is.

    b) the stage set is part of an MTV event (not a touring stage, which the article eventually gets to).

    c) ergo this is (by label standards) a PROMOTIONAL event, putting it completely out of the band's hands and into the hands of the event producers and the label(s) involved.

    It's a rare artist that can come into things like this with the power to nix a set or make any other huge production demands. Usually you're told to show up, shut up, play your little song and make everyone in a suit happy so you can continue to have the cool gig you have. Most of the time, this works out.

    And when it doesn't, it's real easy to adopt the 'blame the band' stance, cause after all, they are the guys standing there aren't they?

    Apologies for my sensitivity to this, but as I said, been there, done that.

    BTW: I have zero affiliations with The Killers or anyone else named in the article.

    And I love this site and agree with everything gbsr posted as well.


  • It's about time to produce some ambient folk-tunes, using exclusively samples from the Justice-album.

  • Lol so the Killers story finally reaches CDM… check out the forum war when I originally broke the story on VJ Forums:

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  • rhowaldt

    why not use stock loops and prefab-stuff when it fits completely into your song? why be so afraid to be un-original? what's this obsession with originality; didn't you know: everything has been done before. you're not original, you just think you are. also, there are a thousand ways to incorporate any loop or sample or whatever in a song, mangled or unmangled, and with very different results. i believe someone like Prefuse73 or Amon Tobin could make any stock loop or sample sound fresh and original.
    too much stuff is illegal for nonsensical reasons. you can't record people talking, you can't videotape people in the street without their written permission, you can't use a piece, however tiny, of somebody else's music without permission and clearance, and you can't smoke in bars anymore and they're banning the sale of magic mushrooms here as well (Netherlands), goddamnit.
    you think my copy of Photoshop is legal? you got to be kidding me. i can't afford a legal copy of almost anything, as the cost of living when working an average job is simply too high. and what's more: whatever happened to 'rules are made to be broken' ? or should i feel like a criminal now, and feel really guilty and go call up the police and confess and let them take me off to jail for using a piece of software without paying for it?

    for the record, i do not use Photoshop illegally, as i do not use Photoshop at all. I use Newtek Aura 2, which is more obscure and unknown and therefore way cooler to use. but if i shut my mouth and never tell anyone i use illegal software, no-one will ever know or care. and if they do know, they should say 'well, good for you, but i feel like a better person when paying for my software so that's what i do'. and that's that. you will never stop people from making illegal copies of software and movies and music, and buying everything legal will not help one bit, it will only make you feel better, and comply with your own belief-system. it's the same with eating meat: being a vegetarian will not prevent people from butchering cows, but if you just do not agree with the way animals are treated, you stop eating meat out of a silent protest. i would know, cause it's exactly what i did. now, i don't care anymore, and i do not need other people caring for me.

    was this incoherent? let's all make music and not care about anything, it's not worth the effort. unless you enjoy it of course 🙂

  • jonnyfive

    I agree with a lot of what rhowaldt said and though I’m glad there are defenders of sampling in this conversation, I'd like to add:

    I don't understand the sampling (and even preset) "snobery" that I sometimes sense in these conversations (after re-reading the thread, perhaps more elsewhere than here). While I understand the commentary on craftsmanship inherent in these comments, it is important to remember not all art/music interacts with its media in the same way. Some art is purely physical, that is, it's all about the quality of the materials while some art relies on the semantics/cultural content of either imagery or in our case, sound. Is Public Enemy not music because we can pick out the James Brown sample? Is Daedulus not creative because he uses phrases verbatim from old recordings?

    Think about the phenomenon in the visual paradigm, Photo Collage, the art of Andy Warhol, Duchamp's L.H.O.O.Q. All these things take obvious "samples" from various cultural contexts, yet no one would claim broadly that photo collagists are not artists because they don't create their own material, or that their art is not as “goodâ€Â as that of painters because of the media they choose. Would we claim that Andy Warhol is a hack riding the coat tails of Marilynn Monroe (ok, maybe the hack part, but still) or that Duchamp is ripping off Leonardo.

    More to the point, does the painter who grinds marigolds for their yellow paint make finer paintings than the painter who uses store-bought tubes of acrylic? Maybe, but that is certainly not determined by the genesis of that painters material, or its relatively deemed "purity", and it is likewise when talking about sound-art. It is the artist not the material that makes the art compelling (or not), whether it’s painting or sampling whether it's 1918 or 2008.

  • rhowaldt

    i agree with jonnyfive. in the hands of a great artist (or, frankly, the right person at the right time), anything can become something worthwhile, even a stock loop or a three-bar sample of a Madonna-song. what matters is that when you see something or hear something, it creates a new world for you. obviously, this is extremely subjective, but please do not rule anything or anyone out. when Malevich paints a black square, some people could care less, while others celebrate the brilliance of its simplicity. there's always more ways to look at something, thats my point. don't be so damn pretentious. if you don't want to use stock loops, perfect, but please do not boast about it or something. post some of your music online instead and let people see for themselves if your lack of stockloops and great originality is able to create better new worlds for them then the next Britney Spears album.

  • Micah

    Guys.. here is something we can do… make our own stuff!! Make your own sounds from tracks.. or by programming your own midi with whatever you want..

    I mean I am soo sick of hearing the same sounds and same crap… seriously..

    Now the FL issue.. if those files are included in the same library of the royalty free samples…. then they are at fault.. not the artist that did the track..

    it is just the drum loop and the chords that is in his track.. and well those are the main parts of the song…. and the file names both had the name Berlin in them… not Deadmau5….

    So if the person didn't know who deadmau5 is.. which is quite possible down here in New Orleans…considering no big dance artists really com here.. (I guess we can't afford them you know since we still have issues)…..

    point being.. if the person didn't know this.. saw those files in the library… if one shots should only be used… and not loops… then FL has a responsibility to seperate those two… well regardless unless they have Deadmau5 permission to include those audio files to begin with is the real question..

    Wonder if there is more to this story.. if FL really messed up and trying to put the blame on the customer… so we shall see…

    but seriously MAKE YOUR OWN SOUNDS AND SAMPLES…. there are soo many tools at your disposal….then you never have to worry about this!!!!!!!

  • Micah

    Meant to say make your own sounds from SCRATCh!!!! LOL sorry

  • Jim

    In fairness to the designers of The Killers set, this kind of stage / screen design has been available way before thet Etienne de Crecy thing. I myself have VJ'ed a rig like this many times with Norman Cook. The whole wireframe projection mapping though…that's a different matter.

  • I believe in an artists creative rights, but people have gotten far too pc these days.

  • Reinis

    As Hoffmeister pointed out on the IL forum thread – the following is from the online knowledge base on ILs site: "* You can not use or sell any of the songs/loops that come included with FL Studio. If you want to use parts of it, you can contact the original creator and discuss this issue further with him."

    Granted, not the most legally strong leg to stand on, but I think that is clear enough to claim that Dirty should have known.

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  • astroids

    a new documentary called RIP – a remix manifesto from the National Film Board of Canada about copyright & creative commons some interesting points – features girltalk

  • Taylor Livingston

    "Of course, if it were 100% live, it wouldn’t be electronic music."

    Huh-wha? Is playing a synthesizer not live? Live is a temporal descriptor, and electronic just means electrons flowing through a non-metal substance. The two are not mutually exclusive or even related in the slightest. Electronic music predates the tape recorder by about half a century, so how do you reckon electronic music can't be played live?

  • deez

    US & RIAA need to stop acting like police and work on a solution. Time changed a long time ago,..stop crying that someone sampled my song,..and be gratefull,..If I paint the mona lisa ,.it would be a crime too?? i painted it my way , I called it Mona Liso. It still art but diffrent approach. Hip Hop was so fresh because you could make something new out of something old and. Those who like the original would buy the original too!! so it works both ways!!,.but if you are a greedy, you would like to sue everyone for sampling. Like that fag that sued Biz Markie. The law should be " Can not sample whole bar but notes can be sampled because you can not own notes nor frequency,…"

  • Carl Lumma

    Who thinks the organ riff in the break in
    "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" sounds like it was sampled from Karn Evil 9?