George Clinton Sues Black Eyed Peas; Apparently He No Longer Thinks Sampling Is 'Cool'

from the all-about-the-cash dept

A few years back, we pointed to this wonderful interview with funk legend George Clinton (and the second half is with hip hop legend Hank Shocklee, which makes it even more interesting), all about music sampling, where Clinton claims sampling's "cool" and "good." He says "it's a whole new music -- a new way of making music." And he says that it helps young people learn how to make and play music as well as learn important skills like how to use a computer. He talks about how glad he was when hip hop artists started making records with samples. The interviewer points out that in many cases Clinton wouldn't get paid for those samples and he notes that it's okay because, in the long run, he'd figure out how to make money from it. In fact, he notes that the rise of hip hop using many of his samples revived interest in his band leading them to get back out on the road and to make money touring again. He even put out some records specifically for sampling. He does talk about how, if someone makes money, he expects them to share some of the proceeds and how he prefers that bands clear samples beforehand, but he seems to think that these things can all be worked out pretty easily. Towards the end of the interview, he notes that licenses should be "pennies" per song to make it reasonable, and that "it's blackmail the way it is now."

Perhaps he's changed his mind when it comes to a band like the Black Eyed Peas, as he's apparently suing the band for sampling one of his tunes. I believe that report misstates previous lawsuits by saying they involved Clinton, when they were actually done by Bridgeport Music -- a company that Clinton has claimed forged his signature to claim rights to his music. This report suggests that Clinton himself is now following in Bridgeport's footsteps though (Bridgeport has become famous for suing a ton of musicians demanding a ton of money for samples). Another report on the lawsuit says that Clinton is accusing someone (yet again) of forging his signature to say that this license was cleared.

In the end, once again, this is disappointing that rather than focusing on making cool and unique new music, people are focusing on going to court and fighting over who should be able to put up a toll booth on new music.


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    Marcus Carab (profile), Dec 14th, 2010 @ 3:53pm

    While I truly can't stand the Black Eyed Peas, sadly this might be a case of "only the music I like deserves rights" on Clinton's part, and I always hate that mentality. Usually it's hip-hop that people are dismissive of, but in this case I suspect George Clinton had a lot more respect for the early hip-hop crews sampling his records than he does for a repetitive megapop band like BEP. And I can totally understand the knee-jerk reaction of "Well, screw those guys, I don't want them turning my stuff into crap" - but ultimately it's a hypocritical position (even more so than the fundamental hypocrisy of any musician being against sampling)

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 14th, 2010 @ 4:25pm

      Re:

      While I truly can't stand the Black Eyed Peas, sadly this might be a case of "only the music I like deserves rights" on Clinton's part, and I always hate that mentality. Usually it's hip-hop that people are dismissive of, but in this case I suspect George Clinton had a lot more respect for the early hip-hop crews sampling his records than he does for a repetitive megapop band like BEP. And I can totally understand the knee-jerk reaction of "Well, screw those guys, I don't want them turning my stuff into crap" - but ultimately it's a hypocritical position (even more so than the fundamental hypocrisy of any musician being against sampling)

      Perhaps. What's interesting in that interview I link to is that he literally says that he's drawn to the music that everyone's parents "hate" because that's the music he knows will be the next big thing. That said, in the interview, he implies he's happy with all kinds of musicians sampling his stuff.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2010 @ 7:59pm

        Re: Re:

        The key point here is that the artist getting sampled should have the final say. It shouldn't be up to random people to just take without getting permission.

        Forget copyright for a second, it is disrespectful of the original artist otherwise.

        Couldn't BEP make "cool and unique new music" without having to borrow someone else's performance to do it? Seems somewhat less unique, no?

         

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    Chris Ruen, Dec 14th, 2010 @ 5:09pm

    BEP appear to have loads of money, so of course George Clinton is more likely to go after them. Don't know if this is a wise move or not on his part, but it's perfectly within his rights regardless of what he's said in the past. Clinton certainly can't tour as much as he used to, which may also explain his change of heart.

    Hi Mike. Thought I'd stop by. The "freeloading" book is happening, so perhaps we'll cross paths at some conference in the future. Later, -C

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Dec 14th, 2010 @ 5:40pm

    "Perhaps he's changed his mind when it comes to a band like the Black Eyed Peas"

    Or he could just really hate the Black Eyed Peas. They've become extremely successful without coming up with a single original idea of their own. I'd imagine that musicians hate them. I know I do.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2010 @ 5:58pm

    George had a feeling

     

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    Eugene (profile), Dec 14th, 2010 @ 6:04pm

    To be fair, if I had an excuse to sue the Black Eyed Peas out of the record business altogether, I'd give it a shot too.

     

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    Matt, Dec 14th, 2010 @ 6:27pm

    Hmmm

    This is like free speech cases where you find yourself defending hate speech. It's horrible, and no one should have to hear it, but it's still the right thing to do.

     

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    Matt, Dec 14th, 2010 @ 8:14pm

    "In the end, once again, this is disappointing that rather than focusing on making cool and unique new music, people are focusing on going to court and fighting over who should be able to put up a toll booth on new music."
    The BEP are the musical equivalent of someone taking a camera to the Louvre and selling their photos of famous artworks (after taking a dump on them)as their own creation. "Cool and unique new music" does not require wholesale copying of other people's work. I would be furious too if someone sampled my work (yes I am a musician) and turned it into something twee and vapid like this so called band does.

     

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    THOOM, Dec 14th, 2010 @ 8:35pm

    George Clinton has always stated that he never had a problem with "musicians" sampling his music as long as they paid him. And rightly so. It took years of sweat and tears to fashion his brand of music. If BEP used his music without paying GC, they should be sued.

    If you did some work for someone and they sidn't pay you, you'd sue too.

     

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    herodotus (profile), Dec 14th, 2010 @ 8:51pm

    "This is like free speech cases where you find yourself defending hate speech. It's horrible, and no one should have to hear it, but it's still the right thing to do."

    Why?

    I realize that this is one of those obvious truths and all, but humor me: Why? Why is it so obviously the right thing for shitty but popular artists to be able to freely sample the music of good but less popular artists, thereby forever associating good-original-song A with crappy-derivative-song B?

    Again, I know that this is super-obvious stuff: forward-thinking-pop-culture-philosophy 101 as it were, but for the sake of argument, could someone spell it out?

     

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      Richard (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 3:31am

      Re:

      Maybe the "good but less popular artist" should isssue his work under a CC-SA license. That way like minded artists can create derivative works - but the megapop stars can't do it without losng their exclusive rights...

       

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    Richard (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 3:27am

    Disentangle

    Why? Why is it so obviously the right thing for shitty but popular artists to be able to freely sample the music of good but less popular artists, thereby forever associating good-original-song A with crappy-derivative-song B?

    Because in the long run that is the only way to get rid of the "shitty but popular artists" once and for all.

    "shitty but popular artists" only EXIST on the back of the rules of copyright which are responsible for the publicity machine that is called the music industry.

    Without that publicity machine there would be no mechanism for these people to prosper. The more the rules of copyright are eroded the less viable that machine wil become - until in the end it collapses. In the meantime the problem you are talking about is an unfortunate side effect. Sometimes the treatment of an illness hurts a bit but in the long run it's good for you.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 6:51am

    Do a reality check. Sampling is theft. It is the theft of a lick or piece of a song that was originally played by competent talented musicians and then cut up and put into a collage of music from many sources with their own words. It is a clumsy cover up for non-musicians that have no actual musical talent. Real musicians spend years practicing and forming their own style only to have it stolen. Cut up into small pieces and then claimed by someone else.
    How would you feel if you were a photographer and I cut up your photos and made a new photo? What about your new movie? Can I cut it up and mix it with other movies and call it my own? It's OK it's only sampling. It's OK if I cheat and steal my hooks from everyone else. Guaranteed success, right!
    How is that art? Would you allow it or would you sue? I would sue. After all if I copyrighted my work the government already gave me a License for Litigation.
    Keepa yo' handz offa my junk.

     

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      Richard (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 2:10pm

      Re:

      Do a reality check. Sampling is theft. It is the theft of a lick or piece of a song..

      Why do you hold a different standard for those who work directly with sound compared to those who use a written score. Proper composers who write their work down have always borrowed material left right and centre. Those who work "by ear" do exactly the same.

      Only a musician who never copied a theme or a musical structure in their life has the right to make a statement like yours. No such musician exists.

      originally played by competent talented musicians and then cut up and put into a collage of music from many sources with their own words. It is a clumsy cover up for non-musicians that have no actual musical talent. Real musicians spend years practicing and forming their own style

      You confuse musicianship with the relativity trivial manual skills of playing an instrument.

      These days you can create music without those manual skills (not necessarily by sampling).

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 6:53am

    In my neighborhood it is called theft and if you steal from me I don't call the police or my lawyer. I get my gun and cap your ass. Got it!

     

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    bdhoro (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 7:16am

    Wow, wouldn't have guessed that

    George Clinton's music has more official remakes and samples by other artists than any other musical artist in history. And now he's mad at the Black Eyed Peas? Reading this article was a big surprise to me, especially since the song in question hardly even reminds me of p-funk, but when you look at some of Snoop Dogg's old albums its hard to say if there's much original work not taken from the funk master George Clinton.

     

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    iamtheky (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 7:33am

    So you can sample Bootsy's bass hooks, and get sued by George? I am pretty sure he is not writing Parliament's music...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 9:28am

    Sampling = Stealing, no way around it.
    It's also lazy as hell songwriting

     

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    A Groove, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 4:14pm

    George comments on the situation

    Hear what GEORGE has to say about all this... and a whole a lot more at: Funkprobosci.org & youtube.com/Funkprobosci

     

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    CEThom, Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 6:24pm

    Ugh

    What an asshole, wanting to get paid for his own music.

    Only a greedy bastard wants to get paid for their own music. What a douche.

    Clearly, the BEPs should just be allowed to use whoever's music they want without paying for it.

     

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    dom, May 11th, 2012 @ 3:46pm

    Clinton is right. Sampling is usury. If you have original ideas, you CREATE...if not, you IMITATE.
    I can't think of ONE hip hop record that is good IN SPITE of the sample, rather than because of it.
    Hip hop is a lazy & anti-creative form. You only need listen to the original artists they stole ( sorry sampled ) from to appreciate that.
    Of course, you DON'T appreciate it if you're a clueless 20 or 30 something who "samples".

     

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