Wilco have settled a lawsuit filed in the U.K. by progressive electronic label Irdial-Discs over the sample that spawned the title of the band’s 2002 album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
The sample, used in the distortion-laced outtro to the song “Poor Places,” is taken from The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations‘s “Phonetic Alphabet Nato,” which consists of a woman’s voice repeating the words “yankee, hotel, foxtrot” in a monotone for ninety seconds.
The Conet Project is a historic collection of secret “Numbers Stations,” shortwave radio transmissions used by the espionage agencies around the world to communicate to their agents in the field.” Although the exact origins of the broadcasts are unknown, Irdial claimed that the “distortions, nuances and noises” in its recording make it distinct and available to copyright.
“When it was interpolated into the mix, Jeff [Wilco frontman Tweedy] thought since it was an unidentifiable source, it was not a copyrightable recording,” says Wilco attorney Josh Grier. “The comparison is if somebody goes out and records a lion roaring [and you sample it], the lion can’t sue you, but maybe the person who made the recording can.”
Exact terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but Grier said Irdial will receive a “share of the sound recording royalty on that track.”