Throwback Documentary: ‘Copyright Criminals’

Over the years, sampling in Hip-Hop has become an all-too-common practice. You’d be hard-pressed to find a song these days that doesn’t contain elements of another song, but with the prevalence of lawsuits being filed against rappers like Kanye West, 50 Cent and the The Beastie Boys over the use of that sampled music, it makes you wonder why artists even bother.

Released in 2009, Copyright Criminals delves into the sampling phenomenon, getting the firsthand, inside stories of why it’s done, how it’s done and how it feels to have your work borrowed.

Here’s the official synopsis:

COPYRIGHT CRIMINALS examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, including the related debates over artistic expression, copyright law and money. The film showcases many of hip-hop music’s founding figures like Public Enemy, De La Soul and Digital Underground, as well as emerging artists such as audiovisual remixers Eclectic Method. It also provides first-person interviews with artists who have been sampled, such as Clyde Stubblefield — James Brown’s drummer and the world’s most sampled musician — and commentary by another highly sampled musician, funk legend George Clinton.

“The controversies surrounding copyright are quite complex, and the position Copyright Criminals takes is not as simple as good or bad,” filmmakers Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod said about the film. “We wanted people to better understand how copyright laws affect creativity and free expression, while provoking conversations about the laws, ethics and aesthetics surrounding sampling. We hope to inspire viewers to become active participants in a conversation about how to update the laws that regulate remix culture.”

BUY: Copyright Criminals DVD