Did The Library Of Congress Just Honor Copyright Infringement?

from the questions,-questions,-questions dept

Every year, the Library of Congress selects 25 recordings (music, spoken word, etc.) to honor by naming them to the National Recording Registry. Among the works so honored this year is De La Soul’s classic first album, 3 Feet High and Rising. Now, this decision to honor that work set off some shocked responses from folks like Copycense, who quickly pointed out that there’s tremendous irony here. That album more or less changed the entire concept of sample-based hip hop music, because its success made the band a legal target. While the album still is out there, it’s effectively illegal, because the massive number of samples involved in the album can’t be cleared, and thus the band has had to use workarounds to rerelease any of the tracks.

Copycense also points out how utterly ridiculous this is. The Library of Congress is the home of the Copyright Office, who has done nothing helpful in terms of sample-based music. Copyright law has made it illegal (even if some still practice it, but not in the same manner as it was being done in the past — at least not “legally.”) And yet… here is the Library of Congress honoring just such an album. An album that couldn’t actually be released today.

If the Library of Congress really wanted to honor that album, rather than listing it in the National Registry, how about fixing the law so that creativity of that nature is allowed to flow, rather than having it criminalized?

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Comments on “Did The Library Of Congress Just Honor Copyright Infringement?”

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:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Slow down there!

Hey, some people sample music for the illegal thrill of it; if this sort of thing was legal we’d have to put up with gutless frat-boys trying to impress chicks with their sampling skillz. (Like they presently do with guitars.)

I’d prefer if it was only done by those talented enough to do well and stay out of jail–that insures real adrenaline fueled mixes get released to the wild.


weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Slow down there!

Or how about some people hear music and get moved. Moved to the point where they try to create something else that reflects their interpretation of what moved them. It may just be adding images/video to music in line with the lyrics/subject matter of said music. Or in the case of samples, a beat, 3 seconds of a song that reflects what you are trying to get across, whatever. If I were in a band I would love to see what inspires my fans, and what about my music moves them. Most would feel that way. Our webpage would include imbeds from our fans youtube pages or whatever they use to post videos.

“I’d prefer if it was only done by those talented enough to do well and stay out of jail–that insures real adrenaline fueled mixes get released to the wild.” Huh? OK? If you say so.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Must be a youngin. In 1989, this was common. It was not until these kinds of songs became popular, and made money, that the leeches started to say hey, he used a 3 second sample of our song in a 6 min song, lets get paid. Lets liar up, and gets paid. So one did it, and another, then another, then we have the shit storm of lawsuits, and copyright thicket we have today. Go listen to Paul’s Boutique and see how many samples you notice, and how entirely different they are from the originals. But I guess gettin paid, or trying to get paid, became more important, than maybe using that to their advantage and maybe even collaborate together with artists that sampled your music to create new stuff TOGETHER to get paid that way. Oh yeah, that requires actual work, and we cant have that now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes. I understand.

But that doesn’t make this type of music illegal. It makes it illegal to do without the proper permissions.

Just like “walking into a house” is not illegal. It’s only illegal if it’s someone else’s house and you do it without their permission.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

No kidding. But even if this particular instance of “sample-based music” is illegal, that does not mean “copyright law has made [sample-based music] illegal.”

Just like property law does not make “bulding entry” entry illegal.

What about this is so f-ing hard to understand? Good lord!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m not sure how I’m missing the point.

I understand that they didn’t get all necessary clearances for the album. De la says it’s the label’s fault. The label said it’s De la’s fault.

Whether any particular artist did or did not get permission to use a sample doesn’t make “sample-based music” legal or illegal, just like whether any particular person got permission to enter my house doesn’t make “entering a house” legal or illegal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:


This is as clear as I can make it.

This album is not equal to “sample-based music.” It is a particular example or iteration fitting into that larger category.

So, the fact that this particular example “is illegal” does not mean “sample-based music” is illegal.

?Me comprendes?

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:


What everyone was saying is that THIS track is illegal. Dela Soul’s track is illegal! Your original post was all about Dela Soul being the “it” that was described! That wasn’t hyperbole, that was everyone describing De La Soul’s track is currently illegal because we’ve changed into a “permission” culture unless otherwise stated!

This wasn’t about sample based music. This was about De La Soul’s track being illegal until they get permission. It’s quite dishonest to try to turn this into something about sample based when everyone is describing the De La Soul track.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Mike wrote the following: “The Library of Congress is the home of the Copyright Office, who has done nothing helpful in terms of sample-based music. Copyright law has made it illegal…”

“It”, in that case, is “sample-based music.” In fact, “sample-based music” is not illegal.

If that’s not what he meant, then maybe he’s just guilty of confusing writing.

Huph (user link) says:


I can’t find any verification yet, but *surely* the samples on this album have been cleared by now? It’s for sale in major online outlets like Amazon and iTunes. I know for a fact that those particular services won’t sell albums with uncleared samples. (I know because I lied to get an album on Amazon). It’s even on Pandora, another stickler for proper license verification.

Hell, a lot of places now want to actually see your release forms rather than taking your word for it. Freaking CD replicators demand proof of clearance these days, since technically they’re the ones making the copies and are the actual infringers in this case even though they only provide a service (interesting how Youtube avoids that somehow). But then again, why would anyone *want* to press CDs these days?

Great album, nonetheless, and sampling still rocks the world. No need to worry about “Legalizing It”, we sample-based artists are doing just fine thank you very much. On that note: we’ve been operating on the free music business model since the 80s, so maybe all of you might want to pay a little more attention to how we keep fed. Hint: it’s not t-shirts, or charging to hang out with people (which is so gross), or giving lectures; we utilize a thing the kids call “hustle”.

Now, could everyone apply their collective knowledge to providing affordable healthy food and decent inexpensive healthcare to people? This puffed-up indignation over vibrations that sound pleasing is getting a little ridiculous.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: "Illegal"?

Please enlighten an old guy on hustle. In my day if you hustled someone, you ripped them off in some way.

“charging to hang out with people (which is so gross)”
Sorry, but in my book, that statement would put your band on the douche bag list.

2 instances I will mention(of many), at The Tower Theater. Henry Rollins, after his show, slid out the load door on Ludlow Street, leaned up against the wall and crossed his arms. It was funny to watch ppl walk by and be like is that… LOL Then it was a mob scene. But Mr. Rollins stayed until he spoke with everyone who was there. Instant favorite. Biohazard. They rolled dice on Ludlow street until we had finished loading every piece of equipment, and talked to every fan that wanted to. THATS THE WAY YOU TREAT FANS.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: "Illegal"?

I can’t find any verification yet, but *surely* the samples on this album have been cleared by now? It’s for sale in major online outlets like Amazon and iTunes.

My understanding was that it has never been cleared, and thus cannot be rereleased. There are old copies of the CD out there, but no new ones.

And, I cannot find the album on iTunes, and Amazon appears to only have the physical copies, not MP3s for sale. And I’m guessing that’s the reason why. Also, Amazon doesn’t even have the 30 second clips that you can hear for it… again, probably because of the lack of clearance.

Prashanth (profile) says:

I’ll be honest: I totally agree that it’s ironic that a federal entity is effectively supporting copyright infringement, but I don’t think it’s right that you’re asking the Library of Congress to do something that’s clearly not its job, and in doing so, I fear that you’ll undermine your credibility among a few (very few, to be sure) outside observers. That’s just my 2 cents.

Mudlock says:


Stop being all passive-aggressive by giving awards to illegal materials (and winking and nodding by the copy machine, and surreptitiously email academic papers to people whose schools haven’t paid to license the right journals, and avoiding buying expiring ebooks) and come out with a clear statement about copyrights. People LIKE librarians. You could do some good.

Pasquale says:


1. This is really hyperbolic.
2. I think you’re letting anti-government fervor cloud your thinking as:
a) LOC houses the Copyright Office – all they do is register the rights and keep track of that information, they have nothing to do with the actual legislation regarding use.
b) By doing this LOC is more so making a statement about Fair Use rights – something librarians take very seriously when it comes to copyright. They’re legitimizing the use of the samples.
c) I’m a librarian, and a state government librarian [though public] at that. Trust me. We’re probably the most subversive group on the inside you can find. Why? We believe in access to and use of information. I don’t know one librarian that touts DMCA controls as something positive. In my opinion, they’re making a subtle statement about the idiocy of sample permissions being necessary.
d) As government employees they are most likely barred from directly lobbying for a political view. The people who can [and are] lobbying for changes would be the American Library Association – a group which pretty much any LOC librarian would be a member of.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ummm...

2.a)”LOC houses the Copyright Office – all they do is register the rights and keep track of that information, they have nothing to do with the actual legislation regarding use.”

Expect that they create the exceptions to the DMCA every 3 years. Of course, if you were a pro like you said, you should already have known that.

Derivative Culture (user link) says:

Under this logic, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations should not have been “preserved” because they are derivative of an earlier work by another composer.

Renoir?s ?Yvonne and Christine Lerolle at the Piano?, should not have been “preserved” because it includes the small image of painting by Degas in the background.

Andy Warhol’s art should not be “preserved” because it is derived from protected images. All appropriating collages should be removed from museums that receive any type of public funding. Jeff Koons should be thrown in jail. Every blues song following the same chord progression should be equally destroyed.

Every single song ever sampled will eventually be absorbed into the public domain, so what difference does it really make? Future generations will be thankful for the preservation of this record. And that’s what this is really all about: the preservation of culture — even if it’s derivative and controversial or “illegal”. As long as it’s innovative, inspiring and culturally significant, who are you to judge?

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