As a music producer, when I was asked to write a blog post about copyright issues, I knew exactly which topic I wanted to research and talk about. Copyright issues in sampled music has always been a huge topic of debate, even political, in the world of music. This is especially the case in the genre and business of the music that I prefer, and if your guess was Hip-Hop than you are correct. For a music genre that has been popularized by and built entirely on the use of Samples, Hip-Hop has often been the poster child in the ongoing battle of creative expression and control.
As a producer of the Hip Hop genre, it is often hard for me to pick a side in this battle because the two sides both offer a reasonable point of view, as to why it is legal/illegal to use someone else’s sample without permission. Often times producers are pursued by copyright holders when they find out their music has been used.
I think the issue stems from the abundance of “grey area” in creative expression laws. Often times, the laws leave room for interpretation. Terms such as “fair use” make every case unique because it allows both the artist and copyright holder a chance defend whether a song was in “fair use”. Even the judges opinion on what “fair use” is can weigh in the courts verdict.
As a producer I know that their are many, many ways of manipulating a sample to create songs. The possibilities are almost endless. Whether I stretch a 1 second clip or speed up a 3 minute song, change the pitch, or drench it in a list of FX’s that you couldn’t even pronounce, I know that I have the ability manipulate a song in an infinite number of ways to create my own form of expression with it. But during this process, at what point is the song no longer considered yours? (You being the owner of a copyright, of the sample I happen to be using). If I put just as much time into rearranging, pitching and cutting a piece of music as the person who wrote it, do I not own some sort of write to publish and use this new form at my own will? And to play devils advocate, Is the owner of the original piece not entitled to credit for what inspired that music in the first place?
Here is a statement on music copyright from the Copyright government website:
“The situation is further complicated by the fact that many licensing transactions are regulated by the government. But the government rules have not been implemented in a unified or systematic fashion. Instead, they represent a series of statutory and judicial mandates that came into effect at various points during the last century to address particular concerns of the day. And still more challenging is that not all licensing is conducted according to these government‐mandated protocols. Some licensing is permitted to transpire in the private marketplace without government oversight. In addition, there are voluntary workarounds to the government processes—more efficient alternatives that have grown up like trees around the government rules and are now deeply rooted”
Here are some articles that further investigate the laws of Music Copyright:
Famous producer DJ Pain also discusses the topic of Hip Hop music sampling :
Let me know what you think, do you think artists should be allowed to used someone else’s music to create their own? What about credit for the copyright holder of the original piece? Be sure to comment and let me know what you think regarding this issue.
Also check out my music! I write/ slash produce my music:
Sometimes I use samples in my music and am a strong advocate for freedom of expression for artists in Hip Hop music. Feel free to sample my work for your own work, I promise I wont sue you