Copyright Criminals

The documentary, Copyright Criminals, explores both the digital world of sampling and how that has affected both music and copyright law.

Beginning in the 1980s by hip-hop artists, sampling was a way for artists to take bits and pieces of another artists work, remix it, lay the track and produce a new song. Because technologies that allow sampling didn’t exist before, old law didn’t have an exact approach or response to the new wave of music.

One of the most important – and honest – points of the film was the interview with Clyde Stubblefield, drummer for James Brown. He discussed his musical process of creating some of the most iconic drum beats for Brown. When listening to other music, he couldn’t say if the other artists specifically got the beat idea from him or it was their own musical talents that drove them to bang the drum in a certain way – something that should ring true for most artists.

While it is one thing to blatantly steal a whole track for personal use, using someone else’s music for inspiration shouldn’t be chastised. Simply put: inspiration always comes from somewhere else.

With sampling, using bits and pieces of someone else’s music to create a new style or a new beat shouldn’t be chastised either. This is how new music, new ideas and new cultures come about. Sharing and vibing with one another is a way that new ideas can be produced.


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