How Copyright Law Changed Music

from the you-can't-do-that-any-more dept

Chuck D of Public Enemy has always been a strong supporter of freeing up music. Years ago, when Napster first appeared on the scene, he was one of the first to publicly stand up in support of Napster, and even went on TV to debate Lars Ulrich from Metallica on the subject. Here’s a fascinating interview with Chuck D & Hank Shocklee of Public Enemy, talking about how copyright law forced them to change the style of music they created entirely. They claim that two of their earlier albums would be impossible to create today, but were possible early on when record execs hadn’t trained their legal guns on music sampling yet. Now, those same songs, that used many different samples would be impossibly expensive. Chuck D claims that the group had to “change our whole style” between albums in order to take into account new copyright rules. Also, when asked about others taking their music and remixing it themselves, he says: “I think my feelings are obvious. I think it’s great.”

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The Devil's D.A. says:

Success or Failure?

So are we to consider this an example of the success or failure of copyright law? On the one hand, it’s kind of sad P.E. couldn’t continue developing their art through massive sampling. Where might they have been able to take that form? On the other hand, they ran into a limitation of the raw material they were using and had to come up with something different to get around it. Is either alternative better, or are they merely different?
Art is always about breaking through assumed limitations but working within actual limits. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which limits are assumed and which are actual until you try to break them.

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