The Documentaries

There are some great documentaries about derivative culture, copyright, sampling and freedom of expression. Below is a guide to what I’ve been able to track down.

Copyright Criminals: This is the one samplists have been waiting for. From Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod. (You may remember McLeod as the professor who trademarked the term, “Freedom of Expression®”.) It focuses only on sampling. Features interviews with Hank Shocklee, Clyde Stubblefield, DJ Qbert, Chuck D, George Clinton, El-P, De La Soul, Mix Master Mike, RJD2, Mr. Len, Matmos and many more. (You had me at Hank Shocklee.) More info at their website. [Be sure to steer clear of the merch section unless you want a Copyright Criminals thong. Ahem.]

Good Copy Bad Copy: This hour-long doc begins with U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle defending Girl Talk in a Congressional hearing. Need I say more? Includes interviews with Girl Talk, Danger Mouse, Jane Peterer, Lawrence Lessig, and many more interesting people. You can view it for free at Directed by Andreas Johnsen, Ralf Christensen and Henrik Moltke. With music by RJD2, Santogold, Girl Talk, Danger Mouse, Gnarls Barkley, De La Soul, NWA and many more.

RiP!: A Remix Manifesto: is Canadian Brett Gaylor’s 86-minute doc about “the changing concept of copyright”. Created over a period of six years, the documentary film features the collaborative remix work of hundreds of people who have contributed to the Open Source Cinema website, helping to create the “world’s first open source documentary” as Gaylor put it. Available for download (pay what you want) at and perhaps screening at a theater near you. View trailer here.

Steal This Film: A Swedish film series documenting the movement against intellectual property produced by The League of Noble Peers and released via the BitTorrent peer-to-peer protocol. Available for download in many formats at

Alternative Freedom: This 69-minute documentary by Twila Raftu and Shaun Croninis is about “the invisible war on culture,” focusing on copyright and DRM. Features interviews Lawrence Lessig, Danger Mouse and many more. Available to view on Google Video. An excerpt from the NY Times review of the film: “Credited to the single-named filmmakers Twila and Shaun, ‘Alternative Freedom’ raises critical issues about the control of digital media then drops them in a shapeless mess of archival clips and meandering interviews.”

Freedom of Expression®: From the people who brought you the critically-acclaimed book of the same name. This provocative and amusing documentary explores the battles being waged in courts, classrooms, museums, film studios, and the Internet over control of our cultural commons. Based on McLeod’s award-winning book of the same title, Freedom of Expression® charts the many successful attempts to “push back this assault by overzealous copyright holders.” You’ll have to pay to view it however. More info View trailer here.

Willful Infringement: Mickey and Me: Greg Hittelman’s 58-minute doc about Jed Horovitz and his legal dispute with the Disney Corporation regarding copyright infringement. From Boing Boing: “The movie features clowns talking about the legal threats they got for twisting balloon-animal Barneys, Negativland conspiracists discussing life after being crushed for making music out of samples, as well as lots of legal geniuses and iconoclasts talking about how we got here and where we’re going.” Sells for the hefty asking price of $50 at

Sonic Outlaws: This doc was made in 1995 by Craig Baldwin. The film focuses on the controversy surrounding Negativland’s battles. Called “gleefully anarchic” by Janet Maslin of the New York Times. Download available at and surprisingly available via Netflix. DVD (with extras) available at Amazon. View trailer here.

Other films of interest:
Robert Rauschenberg: Man At Work (2008) by Chris Granlund; Scratch (2002) by Doug Pray; How to Draw a Bunny (2002) by John Walter; Jeff Koons: A Man of Trust (2008) by Judith Kele.


One response to “The Documentaries

  1. Thanks for all those. I actually stumbled upon Good Copy Bad Copy before your post and found it to be an interesting movie, especially in terms of showing how people of the industry think: "Copyright gives people incentive to create. If noone will pay them, noone will create a statue." I just wonder how people created architecture, sculpture, music, art and literature without the publishers, copyright law and DRM and did it much better than the industry.

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