De Minimis Use

De minimis is a Latin term for minimal things and de minimis non curat lex means “the law does not concern itself with trifles.”  This principal applies to many areas of law, including copyrights.  It is entirely up to the discretion of the court of law to decide whether a case is specifically subject to de minimis interpretation.  In a lawsuit, a court applies the de minimis principle to avoid deciding trivial matters that are not worthy of judicial scrutiny.

Courts have dismissed copyright infringement cases on the grounds that the alleged infringer’s use of the copyrighted work was so insignificant.  i.e. it was a de minimis use.  Music sampling is one area where de minimis doctrine is applied.  Sampling involves copying a small portion of music work that is subsequently modified by sound engineers and incorporating that sample in a new musical work.  Sampling generally end up in a chain of copyright infringement lawsuits.

Inside De Minimis Use