Category Archives: Uncategorized

Entroducing’s Cleared Samples

Did you know that DJ Shadow actually cleared some samples for Endtroducing? I recently broke out my vinyl copy of Endtroducing the other day and was surprised to see the following songs listed in the liner as being licensed: Bjork “Possibly Maybe”; Pekka Pohjola “The Madness Subsides”; Motion “Voice of the Saxophone”; Jeremy Storch “I Feel a New Shadow”; Tangerine Dream “Invisible Limits”; and Nirvana (the UK not Seattle Nirvana) “Love Suite”.

IP Colloquium: Podcasting on Derivative Work, Copyright Termination, and First Sale Doctrine

UCLA Law School’s Prof. Doug Lichtman’s IP Colloquium project offers several interesting podcasts about IP and technology.  Of use to samplists and purveyors of derivative culture are thought-provoking discussions of Derivative Work, Copyright Termination, and First Sale Doctrine.  The podcasts are updated every 2-3 months and attorneys in some jurisdictions can even receive CLE credit.  After downloading podcasts, be sure to check out the “Suggested Reading” (typically a few important decisions) that go along with each episode.

Copyright Criminals on PBS Independent Lens

The documentary Copyright Criminals airs on PBS this week so check your local listings. For those who haven’t seen it, you’ll wish it was 4 hours longer. There’s just no way to cover all the interesting aspects and stories about sampling in an hour. Omitted is Negativland/U2, Verve/Rolling Stones, Campbell v. Acuff-Rose, nor any mention of DJ Shadow, Prince Paul, Girl Talk, Amon Tobin, Fatboy Slim, the cut-ups/musique concrete era, the legal/cultural difference between mixed media in visual art vs. music, etc. I don’t think the phrase “derivative work” is used once. Lessig makes a very brief appearance but should have been given way more time. There is too much time wasted on these video mash-ups of Michael Jackson videos that could have been spent on philosophical content. Moreover, nobody in the film suggests a solution to the problem. That said, the stuff on Hank Shocklee and Clyde Stubblefield is worth watching and kudos to PBS for embracing the issue.

Music and The Brain

A few years ago I was interviewed about sampling by WNYC’s Jad Abumrad for his amazing radio show Radiolab. (For those unfamiliar with Radiolab, do yourselves a huge favor and check it out immediately. It’s sort of like Bill Nye the Science Guy for hep adults and always an incredible sonic experience.) Although the show about sampling never aired, Jad, a musician himself, devoted an hour to exploring “Musical Language“. It’s a fascinating examination of what music is and how it works. It had a profound affect on me as a musician. If you only listen to one episode of Radiolab, listen to that one.

It was through Radiolab that I discovered Oliver Sacks, a prolific writer and neuroscientist. His recent book “Musicophilia” is the subject of a new PBS documentary airing this week. NOVA Musical Minds looks to be as engaging and interesting as the book. I strongly urge you to check it out.

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 www.goodcopybadcopy.net. 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 www.ripremix.com 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 www.stealthisfilm.com.

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 www.freedomofexpression.us. 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 www.fiatlucre.com.

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 ubu.com 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.

The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism

All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. . . .

—John Donne

This epic article about derivative culture by Jonathan Lethem appeared in Harper’s in February 2007.

Thanks to Will for hipping me to this piece.

Digital Barbarism

Interesting review from the WSJ about “Digital Barbarism: A Writer’s Manifesto,” a new book about copyright by Mark Helprin in which he “laments what he calls the ‘Legos’ approach to creativity — taking existing works, mixing them together and editing the result to form a ‘new’ work.”

“There may be a few extremists out there who resent the whole idea of copyright for its attempt to fence off intellectual property. Mr. Helprin deftly shoots down the arguments they might make, which are often, he says, ‘sufficiently careless and spurious to be a Disneyland of self-impeachment.'”