Copyright Criminals

Copyright Criminals

By Benjamin Franzen

Synopsis

Copyright Criminals examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, including the related debates over artistic expression, copyright law, and (of course) money.

This documentary traces the rise of hip-hop from the urban streets of New York to its current status as a multibillion-dollar industry. For more than thirty years, innovative hip-hop performers and producers have been re-using portions of previously recorded music in new, otherwise original compositions. When lawyers and record companies got involved, what was once referred to as a "borrowed melody" became a "copyright infringement."

The film showcases many of hip-hop music's founding figures like Public Enemy, De La Soul, and Digital Underground--while also featuring emerging hip-hop artists from record labels Definitive Jux, Rhymesayers, Ninja Tune, and more. It also provides an in-depth look at artists who have been sampled, such as Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown's drummer and the world's most sampled musician), as well as commentary by another highly sampled musician, funk legend George Clinton.
United States 54 minutes 2009 English
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Festivals
  • IFC Stranger than Fiction 2009 (New York, United States)
  • Toronto International Film Festival 2009 (Toronto, Canada)
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Reviews

  • 80.0/5 Stars.

Because Stravinsky Said It

by Brad on May 17th, 2011
This is the most comprehensive and precise visual record about the ongoing argument over the "borrowing" of audio records. Is there such thing as the "art of sampling"? Is a turntable even an "instrument"? To legal authorities, these questions are unimportant. The re-use of previously recorded sounds is legally consequential though, and this film gives valuable arguments for why this should or should NOT be. As a music fanatic, this film gives further insight into not just the history of sampling but also the legal functions behind this controversial topic. Franzen uses his talents (along with visual and audio mixing by Eclectic Method) to create both a visually and auditorially engaging piece. An important work to be placed in the archive along with Clyde Stubblefield.
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