More insanity in the world of copyright, this time coming out of Denmark, where a judge has ordered the musicians behind a song to pay massive royalties to the copyright holder
of a song from which they sampled a mere 10 seconds. Despite the fact that the musicians worked hard to find the copyright holder and to work out a deal, and despite the fact that it was just 10 seconds of music, and one of about 50 different elements in the song, the (apparently musically illiterate) judge decided that this sample was the major part of the song, and deserved 84% of the royalties
. The article details how the musicians went to great lengths to work out a deal with the copyright holder, but ran into some problem as they dealt with one person who later turned out not to be the actual copyright holder. When they did discover the real copyright holder, again, they worked hard to come to an agreement. And, again, this is a 10-second sample, and one of dozens of elements in the song.
The major issue of the case concerned the definition of a sample is and whether the judge understood the nature of modern music. While Djuma Soundsystem argued – with support from Koda – that the sample was 10 seconds long, Meistrup argued in the court documents that “all of [Engin’s] original composition is used, up to three minutes play time.”
Ralf Christensen in newspaper Information criticised the judge’s lack of understanding after the verdict.
“It’s a harsh verdict not only because of its economic burden, which may affect Danish music in a way similar to what we’ve seen happen with American hip hop. It is also an expression of the court’s lack of understanding for the development of modern music.”
The article notes that part of the issue may be that the musicians being sued represented themselves and were "under prepared" for dealing with the court. But the real problem is that this ruling will act as a precedent and apparently it's the first of its kind in Denmark dealing with samples, and may effectively wipe out the ability to create music based on samples in Denmark. The band, Djuma Soundsystem, claims that it's now hired a lawyer to handle an appeal, so one hopes that a higher court recognizes the insanity of it all. In the meantime, however, the band owes approximately $200,000 (over 1 million Danish kroner) on a song which they say made them about $25,000 (or 140,000 Danish kroner).