Integrity and liability, or samplers shouldn’t throw stones

Mentioned this before on Twitter and Facebook, but I’ve been ignoring the sample litigation over here which really is the home of such discussions (for me anyway).

This article on PolicyMic about the recent Beasties win made me kind of annoyed. Really not sure the Beasties suing people for millions of dollars is the epitome of integrity? Or them trying to avoid paying more sample licensing (the TufAmerica Trouble Funk case, which they might win because it’s not 100% than TufAmerica owns those rights)?

Where’s the artistic integrity there? Oh it’s only their integrity that counts? Others may vary according to the size of their legal bill? This along with the sad GoldieBlox case which also cost them a million – for charity, but still – it all seems a little too corporate, however they sugarcoat it hiding behind MCA’s will. It’s just business.

There is also link to mashups since it was a DJ Z-Trip mix that Monster Energy used (and naughtily Monster Energy seemed to pass off a one-word email from him as some sort of magical sample clearance – DOPE! does not mean ‘yeah I cleared all the samples for your campaign for free’ in any language). Another aspect is with most of these videos it’s far from obvious with online promotional/commercial works what the damages (or profits) are too. Certainly millions for an online YouTube video seems really harsh…

I hope the Beasties for instance cleared the Syl Johnson they used, he’s on the warpath at the moment too (ask Markie Mark and others), And the previous time limit over IP has just been taken down on older works…hence the Led Zep vs Spirit ‘Stairway’ case, the Spiderman one…or the Raging Bull case (the one that changed all this, basically the daughter of a playwright inherited his plays after his death, but the studio allegedly took part in Hollywood accounting, and there has been discussion about sequels).

So the Beasties letting everyone know they’ve got money in the bank and are ‘all for artistic integrity’ with one of the most sample-loaded albums in history might actually backfire…because it’s a piece of piss to turn around their arguments over control and respecting the wishes of the artist (aka MCA) against them for their past sampling. I really hope you cleared it all, lads.

And given that apparently new technology means you can now find hidden samples as with the Vogue case I suspect Hank Shocklee and gang as well as De La Soul might be worried…but they haven’t just had a public $1.7 million cash injection, unlike the Beasties.

I just get the feeling that the remaining Beasties are trading on good feelings post the loss of MCA, but they might win the battle but lose the war if they keep getting overly litigious, not only with the public but also in the courts. At the moment they’re mostly seen as ‘little artist protecting their rights against big bad corps’ but a few nasty losses against other smaller artists not getting their slice might put paid to that. Hence the title – those who sample shouldn’t throw stones, especially in the glasshouses of the courts (and more importantly, the courts of public opinion).

Everything is a Remix

Dunno how I missed this series on copyright and ideas by Kirby Ferguson – especially the last episode which spells out some of the big issues for copyright and IP law (and also includes The Kleptones in it!). With the world in need of good ideas how to stop climate change, how to transform food production, how to cope with overpopulation and poverty, how to cure diseases & cheap medecine, it’s a shame that so much of what would be good for humanity, what John calls the ‘public good’ isn’t shared freely or is scared off by the freezing effect of litigation.

It’s very true that the original copyright and patent laws were in place to help society, to do the exact opposite of what they do now – rather than people keeping their secrets for 100s of years as before, a bit like the alchemists of old – they were to enable public domain and copying, with the candy of a short period of protection. Also I’m glad they pointed out the strange contradictions of the US and Steve Jobs – those who built their whole empires on what would be now illegal copying – ask George Melies about Hollywood for instance – pull up the ladder in recent years to stop others doing same, and become the world’s police over copyright, ACTA and WIPO.

Personally I’m aware of loss aversion too – I tend to be slightly tetchy over my photographs….but I’m aware (and would be proud) of others using my work, and it doesn’t bother me. The only time it bothers me is if it’s a commercial site and there’s no credit really – credit is free, and can lead to other work. In the same way I use photographs sometimes I don’t own or aren’t CC in my collages, I know that transformation, juxtaposition and comment are vital parts of art – and accept that my work goes into that melting pot the same. The only time I get rather bothered is when people put little land enclosure fences around such publicly gained ‘common’ land and claim it as theirs – which is blatantly isn’t. For an instance of this check out ‘The Song Remains The Same’ the one about Led Zeppelin (who hate being sampled btw) for one of the reasons I don’t really like Led Zep:

You can see more of this series – really good but way too short. I’ve been thinking and looking at what’s been produced about remix and mashup culture over the years and although a lot of it is good, it’s always a little scant, a little patchy. I do think the definitive modern story of remix and sample culture, mashups etc. in full hasn’t been written or filmed yet.

For instance the US related books focus on the relatively recent US events, Girl Talk et al and miss the UK/European originators – or even their own originators (Negativland, Oswald, Cage etc) and fail to talk about the early pre-bootleg times. Those that cover those from the 90s or earlier either keep to genre boundaries (hiphop for instance) or have missed the later mashup explosion or have a small update chapter on it, say like Last Night A DJ Saved My Life.

I think a lot of journalists missed the ‘punk’ explosion of kids with their laptops or computers in their bedrooms somewhat, because it wasn’t shaped like Led Zeppelin and didn’t fit their ideas of white boys with guitars. Or more importantly the ideas of their parent company (IPC I’m looking at you here).

The revolution has been and gone and they missed it…

Soundhog – Whole Lotta Helter Skelter

Wasn’t going to post this since I’m playing this bootleg in the next Radio Clash podcast, but it’s tearing up the blogosphere and even just been played on Radio 6Music so I thought Soundhog’s Led Zeppelin vs Beatles mashup – sorry bootleg :-P (sH hates the mashup term) deserved posting twice for those few people who haven’t heard it. It’s ace, wasn’t sure on first listen but really grew on me the second. Love the ‘I’ve got blisters on my fingers!’ bit and Macca moaning about singing the high bits. Well deserved love this is getting – 17000 plays on Soundcloud in the last few days, and download is over here.


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