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?


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Comments on “Forget Patent Trolls, Now There Are Sample Trolls”

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24 Comments
Adam says:

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.

Rfriaz says:

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.

Jones says:

Re: 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.

rstr5105 says:

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.

August West says:

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…

Why is this so hard? says:

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?

craig says:

“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.

the 2nd Computer says:

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.

melancolico catrin (user link) says:

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.

angry dude says:

“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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