Some artists call it paying "homage". Others call it plagiarism. But however you term "sampling", the rules are about to change.
From next year, artists such as Fatboy Slim, who have become famous for taking samples from other recordings, will have a "moral duty" to credit the original artists before they can use their work in songs.
Sampling - the use of short extracts of other works mixed into a contemporary song - has caused legal disputes over whether it infringes copyright, giving strength to the saying in the music industry that "where there's a hit, there's a writ".
The anger of many of those being sampled has often changed to gratitude as a new generation appreciates their work for the first time, but some samples have led to court disputes.
Fatboy Slim had a worldwide hit with "Praise You", which sampled a song by the blues singer Camille Yarborough. Ms Yarborough initially opposed the use of her sample but warmed to the idea after CD buyers became interested in her other work.
Some bands have sought permission but still fallen foul of the law. The Verve got clearing from Allen Klein before using a clip from an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" for their "Bitter Sweet Symphony". That sparked a legal dispute over whether Mr Klein, the Stones' former manager, or Andrew Loog Oldham, whose orchestra performed the sampled recording, had the copyright.
However, under new regulations, which were published yesterday by the Patent Office, the Verve would have to credit the Rolling Stones before sampling their work. The regulations will give all performers a moral right to their work, bringing them in line with authors who have held similar moral rights since 1988.
The regulations, which come into force in the new year, give performers the right to be identified as the performer on any records where their work has been sampled. They will also be given a right to object to any modification made to their performances that are "prejudicial to the performer's reputation". As most samples distort the extracts from the originals, this could provide more work for the lawyers.
Karl Whitfield of the Patent Office said giving moral rights to performers for the first time would mean they would have to be credited for their work when it was used. He said: "Copyright is an economic right but moral rights are to do with integrity. If I give a performance and you do something with it that is detrimental to my reputation, I should be able to complain about it."
The current law on copyright for the music industry is a legal minefield. It is an infringement of copyright to use a "substantial" part of a work without permission, but there has been a lot of argument about exactly what "substantial" means and there has not been a test case to establish the law.
Sampling has become such an industry that many CDs have been produced containing the work of the original artists for listeners who only know a few seconds of their tracks.Reuse content