Sampling Law And Reality

Well let’s discuss this matter a little more:

Let me for a second draw up a potential commercial/legal framework for the future with creative content. There are two parts:

  1. The registered commercial artist gets fair payment for their work upon release. This fair payment is a combined lump sum of a relative amount provided by a democratically organised financial structure made up of respective state bodies and guilds (or unions) that compassionately oversee the management of creative work by individuals and groups. This still allows for all the other aspects of product-commercialism with sales of the product (physical or virtual); and still allows the artist to create whatever they want. All commerce is regulated by ethical dynamic laws that prevent corprotism, and a combination of taxes upon this system feed back directly into the creative process and the artist’s pocket.

  2. A variant of the Creative Commons system is applied across the board to promote two things: firstly, to protect the desired rights of the artist negotiated via the artist; secondly, a significant amount of creative freedom to ‘sample’ or ‘re-interpret’ creative work as artists want to within the system. So, this allows sampling fun per the CC license but doesn’t allow for stupid commercial behavior like sale of duplicated/plagiarized items.

To have this ideal there would be so many things you’d need to change with the world, and the problems are very much related to major problems that Earth faces right now. Practically speaking I don’t see it happening any time soon, so you’ll see a continuation of this phantom underground creativity that keeps its head underneath the legalistic radar.

The other broad issue that’s merging into this debate (and what I’ve hinted at in point 1 above) is the social worth of the artist and creative work. Some people LOVE what we do, and on the other hand some people reckon we’re worthless as sh1t. I’m sure you all could think of many examples. It seems to be the case that the people who think we’re worthless are people who are highly related to the causes of the world’s deliberate ignorances and ingrained problems (with the possible exception of western over-consumption being a broader ill). These are the sort of people who’ll put a jackboot in Mozart’s face, hold a gun at his head for fun and scream ‘you worthless poof go get a real job’.

Want all this to change? How? Good question… One thing comes to mind is that artists could start a global trade union with proper legal registration with a rights/ethics structure that extends out of the CC philosophy, but also seeks to establish officially the cultural worth of artists and creative work. That’s a project of epic proportions, and it’s often been stated that ‘organising artists is like herding cats’. But these are times of change - wipe that grime of the 20th Century away and make a new future! ?

Well, the law already dictates that art has value… hence the current copyright dilemma. True, all is quantified in terms of “intellectual property” and any lawsuits are based on potential revenue lost due to lack of retribution… but it’s still indicative that the corporate types realize that it has some form of value. For more underground music, this perceived value is obviously much lower, as the mainstream audiences won’t react to it the same way, and won’t make the corporate types as much money. Thus, the corporate types can only see the value when it’s capable of raking in mad cash.

Unfortunately, not all artists will go for the Creative Commons philosophy. If they did, they’d be on the bandwagon already. For many outside internet culture or software development circles, applying Creative Commons to one’s own work seems like signing away one’s right to make money on their own work. This of course is not the case… but the non tech-savvy who haven’t had experience with GNU or other “free as in thought” licensing systems often can’t see CC for what it is. Perhaps one day, the world will wake up though ;)

But for now, I’m addressing sampling the music that’s already out there… as this is the current dilemma. We can’t quite force all the corporate goons in existence to relicense their entire back-library as Creative Commons. These back-libraries are money making MACHINES … they make tonnes of money simply owning the rights to songs that get licensed for commercials… or often get sampled. Micheal Jackson owns most of the Beatles songs… and I guarantee you he lives off of licensing revenue now that his music career has failed.

So if they’re not gonna budge on applying freedom to their assets… what can we do? My only conclusion is to standardize the system… make it less of a legal hellhole for artists. We could tout standardized sampling fees as a surefire way to make song rights owners more money on their assets. People using their samples would not only make them more money, but give their original songs a second shot at life. Making them even more money. Sure, we’d simply be playing the corporate game… but isn’t the sheer assurance that after you’ve payed $5 for a sample, you no longer have to worry about legal repercussions good enough for now?

We’ll deal with the larger scope after we’ve nicked this one in the butt ;)

That’s very interesting … Which VSTs do you know of that produce sounds which alter your song licensing possibilities?

Too many lawyers…

Just read about Creative Commons for the first time. Thanks for enlightening me a little guys.

Attribution seems like something that should usually be expected. Unless you mangle something beyond any recognition.Then it’s probably not going to do the original artist much good anyway. Personally I don’t care if somebody wants to sample a vocal I do, or some chords I play. I just like to get credit for having done it. Afterall we all want to get our music heard by more people. Having someone else get it out for us is as good as any other way of doing it.

Okay maybe we don’t all want to have our music heard. But for anyone trying to quit their day job it’s’ a good idea.

I first became aware of the notion of sampling in the late 90’s. Though admitidly many of the hit records of that era contained what would probably be more accurately described as interpolated elements (as apposed to popper samples) from other songs…the result is the same. When I herd the (supposed) new hit song I merely herd what was once a hit 10 to 15 years ago being played to people who probably weren’t alive to remember so it was all new to them. It got so bad that if one were to throw a retro 90’s party you would essentially be throwing a retro 80’s party as everything 90’s (from music to fashion) seemed to be about what had come before.
I listen to a record like Paul’s Boutique and I hear (to this day) something completely fresh and new…yet the entire record is primarily sample based. This is just one of many examples of full records (Entroducing by Dj Shadow) or songs that are based on samples but dont feel redundant or like cheap mash-ups (ugh)
At the end of the day as far as I’m concerned how much you owe the artist/publishing company/owner of original recording rights (haha and the list goes on) should be based on how recognizable the sample is in context of the “new” song. Many of the afore mentioned late 90’s songs (like practically everything on Daft Punk’s “Discovery”) are more akin to covers w/new words than anything else and should be treated as such. I dont think anyone should have to pay for a simple snippit of a song (bass or snare hit etc…)
Much of the sampling debate has it roots in the age old question of the notion of authorship. I’m reminded of the Beastie Boys’s early hit “Fight for your right” the song was originaly recorded by the boys w/Rick Rubin. Then w/o telling the Beasties Rick brings in Kerry King to over dub the (now famous) rock guitar rif that makes the song so recognizable. Also add to all that the fact that “Fight for your right” was the title of a Tom Cushman track. He let the boys use the title under the condition that they would give him credit. Again unbeknowsnt to the boys (or Tom) Rick opted not to give Tom credit as not to have the apearance of bringing in a ringer for the hit. So who deserves credit…who is the author. The answer as far as I’m concirned is…who cares. If its hot its hot…but sometimes hot comes w/a price.

There’s only so much one can invent before they can only innovate
There’s only so much one can innovate before they can only reinterpret
There’s only so much one can reinterpret before they can only copy
(and so on…)

This is the way it always has been, and always will be, especially in regards to music. The whole concept of music trends changing “every decade” is only something that’s come into fashion in the last century… before that, it took much longer for new genres to evolve.

That being said, I’m pretty sure that you and I must have experienced a completely different decade in the 90s… because I remember a decade that was absolutely full of new music genres and new fashions. One could say that Bjork was just copying Annie Lennox, NIN was simply copying Skinny Puppy, Soundgarden was just copying Metallica, Orgy was just copying Devo, Nirvana was copying Neil Young, and Marilyn Manson was copying Alice cooper… but it seems to me that these acts all had unique offerings to the amazing soundscape that filled the 90s. Sure their influences were all over the place… and many of them sampled earlier works… but their music was light years away from their predecessors.

haha no we pretty much lived through the same decade…I enjoy most of the artists you named. Though I perhaps should have been more specific in my post. I was referring to (imho) the horrible pop music of the latter half of the decade. Even more specifically the songs that relied heavily on the sampleing/interpolation of previous hits. In my opinion these songs were put together in a more dj like fashion (i.e. let me play you a song I like only a little different) as apposed to the artist taking his/her influences and reinterpreting them ala Nirvana, Sound Garden, NIN etc…
As far as Nirvana, Orgy or Marilyn Manson being light years ahead of the listed influences…well thats a mater of opinion. Though I would certainly take issue with that opinion.

I said “light years away” … not “light years ahead” … big difference ;)

haha touche.

Either way, an era is not defined by it’s popular movements… it’s defined by what goes on underneath the skin.

I completely agree. Like the Velvet Underground…they didn’t break big but ended up influencing a whole lot of people to make a whole lot of great effin music.
Time is the great test. Only with hindsight can we see what was truly worth while (the velvets et all) and what wasnt.

I seriously don’t understand how the hell the Velvet Underground has become the #1 most quoted influence in the history of music. Those damned music historians must be playing a practical joke on everyone, 'cause I’m just not hearing anything influential when I listen to VU … they’re about as interesting as Coldplay. And no, Coldplay is NOT interesting.

Its one thing for a rock/music critic to claim a band/artist as being influential and another thing entirely for said influenced bands/artists to time and time again in interviews claim that said influential band is in fact…one of their chief influences. I’ve read/watched many interviews with Punk/Hardcore/Post-Punk/Alt-Rock (the genres go on and on) and the Velvets are mentioned time and time again. That fact aside I count their first album amongst the greatest. I simply adore that album.

Though I have yet to sample them lol

I understand now… songs like this were probably the first to acknowledge alternative sexual lifestyles…

… that said, I have a bit more respect for them now. I shall research more :P … BUT BACK TO THE TOPIC AT HAND!!!

Ok back on topic.
I think we need clear delineations made between different kinds of samples or sampling.
I mean you have artists uploading bits and pieces of sound (a synth stab here, a kick drum their) to software/hardware. They use these as virtual/actual instruments as apposed or in tandem w/actual synths. These are called “Samples”
Then you have other artists that lift entire bars from someone else’s song. They do this for various reasons…I’m not going to get into motive. But generally speaking they take a piece of an actual recording (or re-perform ala interpolation) and blend it w/new elements that they add. These are also called “Samples”
There is even Hip-Hop ,an entire genre of music (in its protean form) that was entirely based on the use of someone else’s recordings. In a performance context its rarely referred to as “Samples” but certainly once committed to record they would have to be.
So whats my point…well its this…I don’t think all these things should be referred to as “samples”
I’m not trying to turn this into a semantic argument so don’t get me wrong. My re-noise compositions are entirely sample (the first kind) based for many reasons. Mostly due to the fact that I work cross platform and this makes it easy for me (easier on the cpu as well it seems)
Its kinda nuts that those three completely different things get lumped under the same category.

The term “Samples” comes from the hardware which initially allowed people to sequence or loop sounds, called “Samplers”. Blame it on the hardware companies :P

Really though, Sample is simply a technical term used to describe a digitally recorded chunk of sound stored as a waveform. “Sampling” in reference to the art of plucking sounds from other people’s music, is the somewhat improper use of the term. It’s still technically accurate, but it misses the point of what’s going on. I prefer “sound collage”.

BTW, I wonder what the legal issues surrounding image collages are. Has this practice been banned from elementary schools yet? :P

The legal issues regarding the manipulation of still frame images/paintings etc are quite different from the sampling laws in the music industry. Long story short the original image only has to be slightly manipulated for the original “artist” to no longer have rights to the “new” manipulated version. What constitutes “slight”? Though there are various legal precedence on this suffice to say its usually up to a judge and very rarely does the original artist/phographer ever prevale.
Cut Chemist has in several interviews lamented the disparity between the laws regarding this matter in visual and music arts.

btw I appreciate the clarification of the term sampling. So I suppose if we use your definition which sampling is this thread in regards to?