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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 21, 2010
Honestly this is a movie that has been waiting to be made for over twenty years. Ever since the rise of sampling and most recently downloading the concept of what constitutes for "music" and what constitutes for "stealing" has been debated again and again. Usually when I've witnessed the discussion or it's baught up it's usually the anti group. This movie elegantly gathers together people from all side. Hip hop sample artists/scrachers themselves,recording engineerers,entertainment lawyers and even those musicians who've been sampled most all show up here to discuss the situation head on. You'll hear about people such as De La Soul,Biz Markie and Danger Mouse,all of whom had wounded up on the wrong side of the sampling question legally at one point or another and all of whom had different results for the ware. The anti group,most of whom happen to be lawyers do have a very concise opinion on sampling: that it's very lazy musicianship and that even an unidentifiable fragment of sound used for someones recording is plagerism. Through the use of overlapping visuals you also get great examples of the sampling process-hearing how everyone from James Brown,Led Zeppelin to The Jackson 5 would sound sampled or mashed up,as they call it for mixtapes. Sometimes the ears really do have it;by the time you finish hearing this and seeing the visuals of the individual acts presented as "visual sampling" as it is here you'll agree not only can you see how dancable,funky and creative it all sounds but individual as well-hardly sounds like outright plagerism at all. You also see how jazz musicians borrowed riffs and sound freely from eachother and how even The Beatles themselves were early samplers with many of their post 1967 musical experiences with tape loops and such. No irony should be lost how even here it's presented how Beatle samples have resulted in more trouble with copywrite lawyers over the years. James Brown's drummer Clyde Stubblefield is interviewed extensively here. Being the most sampled drummer ever becaused of "Funky Drummer"....all Clyde the musician cares about is that his name is credited alone: money doesn't matter to him. Not only that but he also brings home that nine times out of ten it's publishers of music who collect the money from sampling fee's,not the artists themselves. Also James Brown,as is pointed out about many trip hop acts after him using newer technology, often got around the issue of borrowing riffs from others by "sampling" their own music in different ways to create new songs from it. The tale becomes one of artistry versus the law and the fundamental differences in their approch to the topic. What it all comes down to in the end is that all great musical art throughout history is based on borrowing bits from the past,like an archivist and that at it's best sampling and modern mash up's act as strong commercials to get the original music back into public interest. One could only imagine the fate of James Brown and George Clinton's music,out of print for over a decade would've been had hip-hop and DJ sampling hadn't rebooted it into the public consciousness. If it wasn't already evident this brings into the forefront the strong and often controntational scism between musicians,artists and the people who are elected to control the music they make. In the end 'Copywrite Criminals' is not only the story of the issue of sampling but also of the confusing and still artistically unfair practices within the music industry. I'd strongly recommend this not only to aspiring DJ's and hip-hoppers but to anyone on either side of this topic looking for some resolutions to the whole situation.
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on March 20, 2011
From the packaging: "Copyright Criminals examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, tracing 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." As artists find ever more inventive ways to insert old influences info new material, this documentary asks critical question on behalf of an entire creative community: Can you own a sound?"

I thought this DVD was very thorough and comprehensive presenting the history of hip-hop and sampling, current uses, who is pushing the limits regarding copyright law, as well as presenting the "suits'" side of the law and the creative community's perspective. The DVD also includes a very impressive music-video-mashup that you have to see! I teach a class on copyright law and I use many clips from this project. Highly recommend.
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on March 8, 2010
Given the people that the film-makers were interviewing, I had pretty high expectations for Copyright Criminals. In fact, I bought it based on the trailer and the interview subjects.

However, the film is ultimately only a good introduction to the issues around sample culture. It offers very little new to the discussion, and only lightly touches on considerations like Creative Commons or Negativland's experiences with copyright infringement.

Even the interviews with Stubblefield (from James Brown's band), while interesting, are bizarrely divided - he introduces himself and discusses being sampled, and then he does so again about a half-hour later. The "video sampling" that makes the film look cool in the first 15 minutes grows tiresome after a short while - mostly because the interviews are so insubstantial.

This is my first review on Amazon, but I felt compelled to provide it because, while the trailer suggests a great deal of interesting, toothy discussion, Copyright Criminals ultimately does not live up to its promise. I felt like the film-makers left a LOT of questions unasked and a lot of content still sitting on the table.
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on May 12, 2011
I've always been amazed at how artists could utilize numerous samples and fuse them together to make something new and fresh. "3 Feet High and Rising" by De La Soul, "It Takes A Nation of Millions" by Public Enemy, and "Paul's Boutique" by The Beastie Boys are glaring examples of this. It's great to see so many different parties represented on this issue giving their views. Although I may be a little biased on this it seemed that the pro-sample side had more ammunition giving more valid points. I would definitely recommend this to both anti-sample and pro-sample parties because I'm sure anybody can come across somebody in this film that they will learn something new from.
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on May 2, 2010
I teach Writing & Rhetoric at a private arts college and showed this documentary to my students to start a conversation about proper citation, fair use, and intellectual property rights. I feel that this documentary does a good job presenting the sides of both samplers and remixers, and those who want credit and compensation for their original work. Plus, it has lots of great music in it, which both I and my students loved.
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on August 11, 2010
Not bad, but nothing that will blow you away. A good basic introduction to what sampling is and it's relevance to the Hip Hop genre.
High points are interviews with Clyde Stubblefield and Hank Shocklee.
It is about an hour long, and does not go into any great details as to the actual process of sampling in a production context.
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