Copyright Case: Vanilla Ice vs Queen & David Bowie

Can song lyrics be used without permission? What about borrowing a beat?

Today’s copyright case might make you think twice before doing so.

Has it ever happened to you thought you were about to listen to “Under Pressure” but then the lyrics to “Ice Ice Baby” came on? 

If you think the two intros sound similar, you aren’t wrong. It’s actually the same beat. 

That famous opening guitar riff in Vanilla Ice’s song was originally composed by Queen and David Bowie. And it didn’t take long for the original artists to notice and take action.  

Once it came time to face the music, Vanilla Ice claimed he added a beat between the notes and that the original melody was different from his. It was ultimately decided that this was not the case. 

Considering it was both an ethical and a copyright issue, Queen and Bowie chose to file a copyright infringement lawsuit for using their work without consent or license.

Do You Need Permission To Sample Music? 

Whenever you use a piece of music that you didn’t create, you need to ask for permission. There are no exceptions.

You can get this consent by obtaining a license from the original artist. Otherwise, if you don’t, you are committing copyright infringement. Moreover, depending on how you would like to use the music, there are different kinds of licenses for different uses. 

Getting sample clearance (permission from the original rights holders to use their music) is a two-part process. You must first get consent from the music publisher, this is the owner of the song’s copyright. Once you have that, you’ll need permission from the master recording owner. In most cases, this is the record label. If the artist is not yet signed to a record label, they own the master rights. 

In the end, both parties agreed to a private settlement. Instead of going to court, Vanilla Ice bought the rights to “Under Pressure” and gave credit to Bowie and Queen on “Ice Ice Baby”. Different versions of “Ice Ice Baby” have been released over the years, and the songwriting credits still go to Queen and Bowie. 

Getting permission to sample music can be a lengthy process. Not doing so may lead to not being able to use the sample or even finding yourself in a costly copyright infringement case. You can avoid this by partnering with one of our intellectual property attorneys to go through the process of sample clearance with you and help you decide which license is best for you.

If You Need a Consulting Regarding Help with Music Sampling, Sanchelima & Associates Can Help

Sanchelima & Associates, P.A. is one of the leading intellectual property law firms in South Florida. With over 40 years of experience, we have represented the IP interests of a wide array of businesses in the US and abroad, including Fortune 500 companies. Whether you need a consultation or prosecution of a patent, trademark, or copyright, we can protect your business’s interests. 

Contact us to book your consultation!

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