Question about samples and copyrights

Hey friends,
maybe some of you can help me a bit. There’s the well known music genre Electro Swing.
Typical elements in these songs are often samples from very old big band records or other old recordings.
There are a few of sample libraries on the market, containg samples such this. But I asked myself, from where the creators of these libraries the samples got? For nearly every song or every recording someone holds the copyright. They can ask the holder of the copyright to use some samples from a recording, but mostly this is very expensive.Also in those libraries are samples from different songs, which means, they have to ask different copyright holders and have then to pay a lot of money for them to create a library.
It’s about 10 years ago, I asked a company to use a sample from a rainforest recording in a song and they want from me an exaggerated price for that.
So my question is: Are there other opportunities to get some of this old samples? Can it be, that some of the old recording transitioned in a kind of public domain?

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As far as I understand it, for old records like that, the copyright holds for 95 years after publication. After the 95 years expires, the song then enters the public domain. There are different rules for newer songs but pretty much all big band music would fall under the original 95 year rule.

This means that older swing records (in the 10s and early 20s) would be in the public domain, while more recent ones (in the 30s and 40s) would still be under copyright.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong about any of this but this was my understanding of how it works

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Public domain depends the country. (For example Beatles or Elvis songs)
There is no a standard about it.

@Daydreamz-Studios . I am doing a bit of electro swing and swing myself, and i have a lot more on the way. Never used samples . I rather prefer to lose a bit of authenticity and live performing vibe of the real players. It might be a pain in the a** the articulations programming. Lots of bends and shakes, falls and stuff but is pretty doable and the result is more than decent. And the most important thing, you do not have the surprise to find another song with your chosen samples. Which really sucks.

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Good question, it’s very very tricky in my opinion. You not only have the master copyright but also composition rights, plus the so called neighbouring rights that covers the actual performers in the piece. Especially the composition copyright is valid all your life + 70 years after you die so that your children or family still benefit your work.

Last year I went to a conference about copyright and there was an interesting story of a hiphop artist. In this genre sampling is the main thing constantly. He used a little brass phrase as well that somehow came to him. The song became very popular. Turns out the little brass phrase was owned by a band that created it many years earlier. If I remember correctly it came to a deal where he had to pay 10% of all proceedings to them…
Would be cool to play in that band haha.

With newer libraries it’s of course different because then contracts are signed with the performers upfront.

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@CWMusic . Thats another reason i rather prefer to do all my sound design my own. Bit of a hassle but safe.

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Samples must be unrecognizible (heavily processed or short) OR from licensed libraries, allowing to use it in stock music.

Great advice!

Thanks for your answers friends. To be clear: I don’t have the plan to create something in Electro Swing. I was hearing some Electro Swingsongs on YT. Al these songs have used old samples. And that was the initial spark to search for sample libraries for this genre. I found some and then I asked my question here. But this question is valid for every genre, where samples are used.
If I read the answer from @CWMusic and see, how complicated and “dangerous” it can be, to use a sample without thinking about the consequences…that leads me to the next question. There are millions of tons of sample packs on the market with sampled guitar riffs, licks, drumparts, synth parts and so far. I’m pretty sure, that not all of these sound designers going the way of @Soundtrickz and produce all these sounds by themself. I’m sure, that they sample the most of the stuff from other sources or use other sources and combine them together. And I wonder why they do that dangerous stuff. I am also pretty sure, that they didn’t ask the copyright holders for an approval to use their sonds for a sample library. that would be way too expensive and the income from the sample pack cannot compensate these expenses.
Do they go the way like:“No risk, no fun?”

@Daydreamz-Studios . Most of major libraries have those cleared. They are either in the public domain, or they have an agreement with the rights holders and their 3rd party connections. Although , i remember that some years ago, a really famous edm based library, was using samples released by other companies, processed them a bit then sold them as their own. Even the embeded meta info was left along by mistake. As for self sound design, i am afraid that major clients (big advertising companies) do not accept any track that have samples involved unless they are officialy cleared or there is a written rights owner agreement. Nowdays, in the era of stock music market, the author is responsable for using non legit sources.The client is exonerated. In my past years in mainstream and media production these things were taken really seriously . But as @CWMusic said, there will always be hiphop :slight_smile: . These guys are playing russian roulette imo.

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Yes exactly like @Soundtrickz says. Lots of VSTs also have little “phrases” and “riffs” indeed. But in this case the companies selling them should have cleared that with the actual performers, else technically speaking even a cello player could come after 10 years and say “Hey, I played that spiccato E tone, it is mine” :slight_smile:
So I think it is clear to assume that most well known libraries are completely safe and clear and they have agreements in place with the performers they hired to create the libraries. Even if there would be a problem, the agreement with the client (we as buyers) makes it a problem between the company and the original performer.

When you find “free” sample packs or unknown sources or you see collections, you enter the swamp.

I sometimes use samples of let’s say a little phrase here and there but I also make sure that I combine it with something else so that it is becomes my own idea. I also have used sound effects in works but always made sure to track them back to the source as far as possible and buy a proper license for them/ get written permission. This also connects a bit to the topic of “prices”. When I have a really important song and for example need a wind sound effect, I’m willing to pay a good price for it in order to clear it and have peace of mind and know it is from a reputable creator. I think( hope) that lots of clients shopping for our music think along those lines as well.

In a way it’s a daunting task but I’m still happy we have all these laws in place that protect us.

It’s a cool topic to discuss.

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