Copyright Criminals (2009)

22 Jul

This documentary gives an overview on the subject of sampling in music. In case you don’t know what a sample is, dictionary.com describes it as:

a sound of short duration, as a musical tone or a drumbeat, digitally stored in a synthesizer for playback.

To put it simply: You take a piece of music from another artist, for example drums and use these drums in your own music to build a song with. When hip hop started in the seventies the DJ’s in the parks would use the break in a record (for example a drum solo) and loop it by playing that same bit using two turntables. During the eighties technology started to become available which would allow you to digitally store a piece of music which meant that a music producer would have another tool in his bag of tricks to create music and be more creative. For hip hop it meant the start of its golden years with albums like 3 Feet High & Rising by De La Soul or The Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique, who were filled with samples. Some of the artists that were sampled weren’t really happy with their music being used. De La Soul was brought to court and lost a lot of money because they used music from The Turtles without their permission. It meant the rise of a whole industry out to make money on samples.

In this documentary both artists and lawyers are interviewed who give their opinion about sampling. Of course the lawyers think that people should pay if someone uses someone else’s music and there is a producer who think that using samples equals lazy music creation. If you listen to either hip hop or other electronic music you will probably disagree with that. Several artists, like De La Soul, El-P, Chuck D. and Mix Master Mike tell what the effect of the regulation and monetization of samples has had on their own music and the way they use samples now.

As a hiphop fan this documentary was a pleasure to watch. The editing is nice and quick and the music (which of course is sampled) sounds great and underlines the point that this documentary tries to make: A lot of creativity is needed when using samples. Copyright Criminals gives a good overview of the start, use of and future of sampling and worth seeing.

Score: 8

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