Sampling is when an artist uses parts of someone else’s recording and incorporates it into a new composition; it’s a form of borrowing from someone else’s music. If that music is still in copyright, you can only use a sample or quote with the prior permission of the copyright owner.
If you sample a ‘substantial part’ of someone else’s song/tune without permission, you infringe copyright in the song itself, usually owned by the songwriter or the publishing company. You also infringe copyright in the sound recording which is usually owned by the record company. The length of the sample used is irrelevant but if it is recognisable as being from the original recording or piece of music then it’s considered as being a ‘substantial part’.
The copyright owner has the right to refuse permission in which case the sample cannot be used. Equally the copyright owner can give their permission for the sample to be used. Authorisation to use the sample will often be given by way of licence. The copyright owner can decide on what basis they are prepared to consider licensing this use. They may request that you pay a fee, assign part of the copyright in your work to the copyright owner and credit the original writers and copyright owner of the music from which the sample is taken as a condition of any licence.
The fee for the licence may vary depending on different factors such as how much of the original sample you wish to use, the music that you intend on sampling i.e. it will be more expensive to sample part of a well known famous song than it would be for an unknown drum beat. How you intend to use the sample in a new composition will also be considered i.e. it would be more expensive if you were to build the new composition around the sample than it would be to use it incidentally in the composition.
There are many websites where you can get copyright free samples. Here are just a few:
However, if you are ever in any doubt it is always advisable to seek permission before you use a sample.