Forget Patent Trolls, Now There Are Sample Trolls

from the feeding-off-of-creativity dept

David Levine points us to Tim Wu's latest article at Slate about the rise of what he calls "sample trolls," who are similar to patent trolls, but focus on suing anyone who samples music. The interesting thing here is that the companies (or individuals) doing this often obtain the rights to the various songs under very questionable means. In at least one case, it sounds like the most well known guy doing this, under the name of Bridgetport Music, simply forged George Clinton's name to assign himself the rights to a lot of his music (which was then sampled quite a lot by hip hop artists). Unfortunately, Bridgeport (who just last week sued Jay-Z) has won some court cases, including one in the 6th Circuit that claimed that any sampling without a license was illegal. That seems to (again) be a stretch of the purpose of fair use, and the reasoning behind copyright. Wu makes the case that these sample trolls do nothing to encourage creativity and the production of new content, and a great deal to hinder it and make it more expensive. A few years ago, we looked at the music industry in Jamaica, where the idea of sampling wasn't just common, it is encouraged and embraced as a core part of the music industry, and it's only resulted in more creative output, as musicians take the different pieces that others have used and try to outdo each other in making something better out of it. Yet, if that were happening in the US, there would be lawsuits involving companies like Bridgeport Music, who do nothing to encourage creativity, and a lot less music. How is that considered in line with the purpose of intellectual property as an incentive to create new content?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Alex, Nov 17th, 2006 @ 5:29pm

    If I'm reading your article right: Bridgeport Music pretended to own the rights to a piece of music; then sued someone for sampling that piece of music; and then WON? Is that correct? Everyone involved should be jailed.

     

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  2.  
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    bnelly, Nov 17th, 2006 @ 6:09pm

    this article is poorly written and doesn't make much sense. there's no flow of logic. all i know is someone is sampling and someone is sueing.

     

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  3.  
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    Adam, Nov 17th, 2006 @ 7:45pm

    Re: bnelly's post

    well.. it made sense to me.. maybe the problem is user error.

    this blows, speaking from the POV of an electronic music artist, it's really disheartening that people are out there trying to STEAL money from someone else's hard work

    i say steal because that's what it amounts to, someone with a profitable, dick-head scheme to scrape money off of a legitimate art and industry.

    /soapbox.

     

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  4.  
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    Charles Griswold, Nov 17th, 2006 @ 7:55pm

    Intellectual Property

    Hey, that's not fair. Bridgeport Music stole those songs fair and square!

     

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  5.  
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    Rfriaz, Nov 17th, 2006 @ 7:56pm

    While that lawsuit over that dubious amount of sampling is obviously asinine, I'm not sure I agree that sampling music is a legitimate, fair, and creative medium based on the argument that it makes more "creative output, as musicians take the different pieces that others have used and try to outdo each other in making something better out of it."

    I'm not on either side, but a good many artist feel that sampling is an uncreative medium of thievery and lack of musicality. I admit this isn't the focus of the article but it does attempt to strengthen its position with it.

     

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  6.  
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    Joe Willie, Nov 17th, 2006 @ 7:59pm

    In Jamaca it may be fine to encourage creativity. But the purpose of music in the US is to generate as much cash flow as possible in the short term. Creativity has nothing to do with the goals of the US music industry. Encouraging creativity just upsets the established business models.

     

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  7.  
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    Jones, Nov 17th, 2006 @ 9:59pm

    Re:

    Yeah, well tell that to the hordes of musicians, rappers, rockers and others who spend days and sometimes weeks laboring over sample laden tracks to make some of the most dynamic and fresh music on the market (US OR Otherwise). Tell them that their work is uncreative and lacking of musicality.

    What is music, if nothing more than rhythm, melody and harmony. The foundations of which you must have whether you sample or play it. Sampling is just another tool in the box of the musician who uses it. I have witnessed many who thought that sampling and creating something worthwhile from it was easy and uninspired and lacking of creativity fall way short once they realize that it takes very good talent to hear something from another body of work, oft times not anyway resembling the new creation that it becomes after being sampled, and to then take that and create something entirely different, fresh and new. Sampling is here to stay. Lawsuits will only serve to slow the process. But trust me, its here to stay.

     

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  8.  
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    rstr5105, Nov 17th, 2006 @ 11:44pm

    Is it going to get so bad...

    ...That when one band uses the E#7 chord and a tempo of 80 bpm, any other band that uses that chord and tempo gets sued?

    That's where the whole music industry is going.

    /sarcasm

    That would DEFINITLY promote creativity as every band out there would have to invent new chords and no song could be the same tempo as any other.

     

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  9.  
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    August West, Nov 18th, 2006 @ 3:43am

    Kill the lawyers

    These people ought to be shot. Bob Marley took the theme from the kid show "The Banana Splits" and incorporated it in to "Buffalo Soldier". Jerry Garcia lifted the "doo-do-doo-do-doo-do-do-do-doo-do-doo-do-doo" part of Lou Redd's "Walk on the Wild Side" and made it the core of "Franklin's Tower". These are totally different songs from the ones that influenced them. But come to think of it, those guys are worth more dead than alive. I might sue their estates, yeah...

     

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  10.  
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    Why is this so hard?, Nov 18th, 2006 @ 6:48am

    Missing the Point

    The point isn't whether sampling is creative or not, it's called giving credit where credit is due. There is a reasonable middle-ground here, one that has been working for centuries in literature. If you take something from someone else's work, you provide an appropriate citation.

    No one would argue with:
    - Everyone wants artists to get credit for their work
    - Everyone wants to encourage artists to pursue exercise their creativity

    Why is it so unreasonable for artists to be able to use other artists' work but be required to cite it?

     

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  11.  
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    Louis, Nov 18th, 2006 @ 8:16am

    Re: Missing the Point

    Don't try and bring Logic into an issue that's all about money, man.

     

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  12.  
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    Russell Williams, Nov 18th, 2006 @ 9:44am

    Something to watch

    Please take the time to view THIS interview at the ASCAP convention.

     

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2006 @ 5:56pm

    Re: Intellectual Property

    LOL :D Well put

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2006 @ 6:37pm

    It doesn't matter if sampling is legal or not. All the popular music *rap* today sounds the same anyway. That goes for most rock too.

     

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  15.  
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    PhysicsGuy, Nov 19th, 2006 @ 1:24pm

    that damn E#7 chord... right up there with that B#9 chord... or the Fbdim and Cbmaj7 chords :P (yes i know these are applicable in context to the music they accompany but out of all the chords you chose you chose E#7... that's meaningless without the context... it's F7 :P)

     

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  16.  
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    craig, Nov 19th, 2006 @ 3:30pm

    "While that lawsuit over that dubious amount of sampling is obviously asinine, I'm not sure I agree that sampling music is a legitimate, fair, and creative medium based on the argument that it makes more "creative output, as musicians take the different pieces that others have used and try to outdo each other in making something better out of it."

    I'm not on either side, but a good many artist feel that sampling is an uncreative medium of thievery and lack of musicality. I admit this isn't the focus of the article but it does attempt to strengthen its position with it."


    Copyright law was NOT intended to create new revenue streams. It was not intended to allow people ownership of a sound or a waveform.

    Copyright law was created to stop people from selling copies of your work for less, undercutting your price.

    Write a book, and other people can't print and sell copies of that work undercutting your price or get your sales. Create a record, people can;t sell copies and undercut your price. And all of this for a LIMITED TIME. Give you a chance to make some bucks first.

    Who on EARTH is going to say "Well, i was going to buy The Beatles' 'Abbey Road,' but there's already an eight-of-a-second bleep from one of the songs played backwards repeatedly on a CD I already have, so I guess I don't need to buy it."

    Sampling will NOT cost any artists sales of the songs sampled from - in fact, by way of advertising, it may INCREASE sales.

    Sampling will only cost artists money from sales of a product thats very existence is only the result of the distortion and extension of copyright law.

     

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  17.  
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    melancolico catrin, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 10:09am

    What are my chances?

    I sample the hell out of music but I provide all the music I produce for free, even though I am not making any money on this what are my chances of getting sued by one of these trolls?

     

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  18.  
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    the 2nd Computer, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 12:06pm

    Creativity by hard work

    as a musician who has spent 20 years learning how to play my instruments it is outrageous that people think that they should be allowed to sample my music and because they just press a button or two to change the tempo or molulate the tone up a 1/2 step that they have some how added some creative value...if they want to be a musician why not learn how to play an instrument..it seems that there is a generation on the rise that is lazy...wants everythhing for free....and can't stand the fact that there are laws in society.

     

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  19.  
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    melancolico catrin, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 12:51pm

    Only 20 years?

    I'm 30 years old and I've been playing my instruments since I was 5... so easy there "pops" don't give yourself a heart-attack. Heack, I play a modular synthesaizer thats at least 30 years old...
    See, it's old farts like you that think art should be property.
    I say screw that, music should be free and if you want to make money off of music it should be from live shows, and not how many times someone listens to your CD.
    You are keeping no one down with your ignorant comment, and if you think it's as easy as pressing one or two buttons then you need to get of the sauce old man.

     

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  20.  
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    the 2nd Computer, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 1:13pm

    only 20 going on 1

    only 20 years old...you are still a little baby who has not grown up yet..so its OK... one day when someone who is not even born yet will redefine everything that you stand for..then what ya gonna do... its baby like you that are destroying the world.

     

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  21.  
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    melancolico catrin, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 1:40pm

    Can you Read? Can you count?

    I said I was 30 and I've been playing instruments since I was five, so that not only makes me younger than you, but I've been playing for 5 more years than you have... you're too stupid to have a decent conversation, go practice some more...

     

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  22.  
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    angry dude, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 10:10pm

    "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" (US Constitution)

    Copyrights and patents exist for a good reason:
    they are the only driving force behind most of the creative work in a capitalistic society.
    Unfortunately, too many people in this country have this "free beer" mentality.
    IPod generation...

     

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  23.  
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    Don Juanson, Nov 23rd, 2006 @ 10:14am

    2nd computer crash

    give it a break bozo

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    sdfghsdfgsd, Mar 13th, 2012 @ 6:58pm

    Re: Creativity by hard work

    "your music". I doubt anybody even wants to HEAR your music, let alone sample it. Actually, I doubt that you're even a musician, since any true musician.....screw it, you're not important enough to continue this comment

     

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