Electro pioneers Kraftwerk have lost a landmark court case against a German rapper who used samples of the band’s music without any consent.
Rapper Moses Pelham used a sampled two-second drum sequence from the 1977 Kraftwerk’s song “Metal On Metal” for Pelham’s song, released in 1997, “Nur Mir”, which Pelham wrote for another rapper Sabrina Setlur.
Kraftwerk founding member Ralf Hutter initially sued Pelham in 2012 over the breach of copyright when a German court ruled that “Nur Mir” should be deleted, agreeing with Hutter that the repeated sample amounted to copyright infringement.
Pelham then took the case to the German court of appeal, which has now ruled that the song’s impact on Kraftwerk should not supersede Pelham’s “artistic freedom”.
In a statement from the Bundesgerichtof (court of appeal) it said that blocking Pelham’s use of samples “Would practically exclude the creation of pieces of music in a particular style”. Hutter’s argument was 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.
The German music industry body GFUMI warned before the ruling, that if Kraftwerk lost, an attitude of “Artistic freedom beats all” would have far-reaching consequences. Florian Druecke, GFUMI director, added: “Such a ruling would be grist to the mill for those who claim that everything should be free on the internet.”
“Metal On Metal” is featured on Kraftwerk’s landmark album Trans-Europe Express. As of now, Hutter is the only original member of the four-piece.
Kraftwerk will be playing all eight of its albums at a residency at the Norwegian Opera House in Oslo from August 4th– 7th, before embarking on a tour of the US in September.