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Music sampling is the act of taking a piece of an already existing music or sound recording to create a new work (music).  This could be anything ranging from a couple of notes, cords to a complete chorus. This is why some songs will feel like you have listen to them before or sometimes you can immediately associate the song to a particular artist.

Music sampling has its hooks as far back as 1970 when Bronx-style disc Jockeys (DJs) made use of turn tables and a stereo mixer to break beats (playing only the most persuasive portions of a record) into new creations on which MCs in their crew would provide vocals on the beats. This practice rapidly developed and became profitable causing music producers to start using this technique to produce more songs especially in the rap culture.

During this time, a renown black American DJ and musician, Afika Bambata, was inspired by the electronic sounds of the German pop group Kraftwerk and sampled some of this electronic sound in his album “Planet Rock”. This marked the beginning of a ‘hip hop culture’ that would embrace the sampling of many artists of various cultures and genre into hip hop music.

Over the years, audio collage (sampling) has had a strong influence in the hip hop community. This is evident with the influx of metamorphosed and hybrid movements like; the dance, funk house, techno and recently in Cameroon genres like “Mboko”, “Afro Njang” etc, which has emerged as a direct consequence of music sampling.

The practice of sampling music records of old artists always brings back that nostalgic feeling to the ears and minds of the consumers. However, this almost always benefits the author of the new master piece to the disadvantage of the original author or copyright holder. This has subjected music samplers to copyright disputes as right holders have increasingly sued third parties who copy or make use of their art (especially when done without their express permission and in respect of the laws governing copyrights and neighboring rights).

In recent times the courts in America and Europe have actively laid precedence when it comes to the infringement of the right of artist as concern music sampling. An example is the case of the Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango, who sued Micheal Jackson in the French court for sampling his ‘Soul Makossa’ without his express authorization (the matter was later settled out of court). The courts in Cameroon have little or no judicial precedence on this topic as most artist tend to settle out of court.

Sampling a protected work does not only have to end with the author of the protected work claiming from the sampler. There have been instances where both parties do benefit from the art of the sampling artist. Eminem sampled Dido song “thank you” in his single “stan”.  That year both artist did top the music charts. Dido credited Eminem for exposing her to a broad audience.

A school of thought is of the opinion that sampling is simply the act stealing of another artist’s work and should be discouraged in the strongest possible terms. While another school of thought holds that the art of sampling is creative and should be encourage as long as the artist sampling respects the original work, thus categorizing sampled work as a derivative work, to them, it is one thing to copy the work of an artist and another to be able to collage it on a new work to produce a beautiful melody. It will warrant inspiration and talent to produce a song worth listening.

The art of sampling has enabled the work of many artists to survive generations after generation, a good example is Young Holiday, a Cameroonian rapper who sampled Babe Manga’s (deceased) song “mot a benama” in his song “hi Ghana” and Mic Monsta in his song “Local Lokito” sampled Nkotti Francois song titled “Beyengue ba desto”.


The law governing copyrights in Cameroon is law No. 2000/011 of December 19th 2000 on copyrights and neighboring rights. The law protects all literal or artistic work irrespective of their mode, worth, genre or purpose of expression as defined in section 3(1) of the law.

In protecting the work mention in section 3(1) the law attributes to Artists of copyrighted work a set of exclusive rights which flows from the intellectual property rights they have on the artistic, literal or musical work. These rights are best categorized as Economic rights and Moral rights. These Economic rights are; rights to reproduction, right to exploitation and rights to representation, while, moral rights are; the rights to disclosure and determine procedure of disclosure, the right claim ownership of their work, defend the integrity of his/her work, and to end dissemination of his/her work.

These rights are attached to the owner or holder of the copyrights mentioned in section 3(1) of the 2000 law. Thus, exploiting the work in any form without the consent of the right holder may amount to copyright infringements save for the exception provided by law.

During the life time of the artist he is the sole holder of a web of exclusive right which protects the economic interest and moral interest over his work as discussed above. Thus, if one has to make use of the work of an artist for his/her benefit the person, the artist will have to expressly provide his authorization, failure to which would be an infringement of the exclusive rights in the possession of the author/artist. The authorization must be written indicating the status of authorization (exclusive or non-exclusive license).

Exceptions to when the express authorization of the artist of the original work is not needed, is provided in Section 29 of Law NO. 2000/011 of 19th December 2000, to regulate copyrights and neighboring rights. These exceptions are: –

  • Private performance strictly within family circles, at no proceeds
  • For educational purposes
  • Strictly for private use (reproduction and transformation)
  • Press review, analysis and short quotation justified for scientific use or information.
  • For teaching illustration.
  • Parody, pastiche and carton
  • For legal proceedings.


Sampling, which in other words is the act of cutting and pasting musical sound in order to create new composition, would raise copyright issues where the use of this audio collage is done without the authorization of the original owner of the work.

Balancing between the artist’s right to protect his intellectual property and the public’s right to build on already existing material to create new works, has always been a tricky balance to establish. Whatever the case maybe authors do have right over their work during their life time and 50 years after the death of the artist. After which the work is now attributed to the public domain. Once this is done, anyone can make use of the work with little or no restrictions.


Tamanchambi Elton Taniform 

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