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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  1. identicon
    craig, 19 Nov 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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