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February 16, 2006

Filed under: music»business

Free Samples

Josh Ellis writes:

When I see hysterical Cory Doctorow posts on BoingBoing about how Copyright Law Is Killing Creativity, I sometimes think that copyright law may be the only thing saving creativity these days--because it's the only thing that keeps lazy artists from simply recontextualizing the work of their elders and betters and calling it originality, without bothering to generate new information.

Or to put it another way: if you don't want to get sued for sampling, learn to play an instrument.

Or to put it another way: Idris Muhammad plays drums. Timbaland plays Idris Muhammad playing drums. This is not the same thing. The two actions do not require the same level of skill or talent.

Or to put it even another way: when did the curators replace the artists as the stars of the show?

I don't have a problem with the concept of a remix, or of a mashup. I'm sure at times it can be very clever, taking two songs with contrasting or complimenting messages and combining them. Everyone needs a hobby.

My problem with mashups is the way that copyleft advocates like the EFF trumpet them as great art just because they break existing copyright laws. Their illegal status elevates them far beyond the amount of attention they could possibly deserve. Let's be honest: it's novelty music created from the labor of others. Is that really the best example that intellectual freedom has to offer? Is that really an art form that we should spend a lot of time defending?

Update: In a post today on CDM, editor and digital music guru Peter Kirn links to an article in Keyboard that he wrote regarding the recent (late 2004) court ruling on digital sampling. It's a complicated case, but I'm inclined to agree with the court myself: get a license, or re-record it. As I noted in comments, it's easier for some people (read: major label artists) to get that license than for others. It doesn't help that until recently many musicians didn't own their work, and they still often don't own all of it.

It still seems odd to me that intellectual property advocates are the ones arguing that it should be easier for other people to sample my work.

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