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Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling [Paperback]

by Kembrew McLeod, Peter DiCola
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 14, 2011 0822348756 978-0822348757
How did the Depression-era folk-song collector Alan Lomax end up with a songwriting credit on Jay-Z’s song “Takeover”? Why doesn’t Clyde Stubblefield, the primary drummer on James Brown recordings from the late 1960s such as “Funky Drummer” and “Cold Sweat,” get paid for other musicians’ frequent use of the beats he performed on those songs? The music industry’s approach to digital sampling—the act of incorporating snippets of existing recordings into new ones—holds the answers. Exploring the complexities and contradictions in how samples are licensed, Kembrew McLeod and Peter DiCola interviewed more than 100 musicians, managers, lawyers, industry professionals, journalists, and scholars. Based on those interviews, Creative License puts digital sampling into historical, cultural, and legal context. It describes hip-hop during its sample-heavy golden age in the 1980s and early 1990s, the lawsuits that shaped U.S. copyright law on sampling, and the labyrinthine licensing process that musicians must now navigate. The authors argue that the current system for licensing samples is inefficient and limits creativity. For instance, by estimating the present-day licensing fees for the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique (1989) and Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet (1990), two albums from hip-hop’s golden age, the authors show that neither album could be released commercially today. Observing that the same dynamics that create problems for remixers now reverberate throughout all culture industries, the authors conclude by examining ideas for reform.

Interviewees include David Byrne, Cee Lo Green, George Clinton, De La Soul, DJ Premier, DJ Qbert, Eclectic Method, El-P, Girl Talk, Matmos, Mix Master Mike, Negativland, Public Enemy, RZA, Clyde Stubblefield, T.S. Monk.

Frequently Bought Together

Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling + Unfree Masters: Popular Music and the Politics of Work (Refiguring American Music) + Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age
Price for all three: $58.62

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Editorial Reviews


“[A] very readable layman’s guide to the legal framework underpinning the American sampling regime. . . . [A] great addition to the growing library of works showing that the endless addition of expanded property rights does nothing to ‘promote the progress’ of music, stifles expression and serves only to let Jimmy Page buy another Aleister Crowley first edition.” - Peter Shapiro, The Wire

“Do you ever listen to records like the Beastie Boys' Paul’s Boutique or Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet and wonder why they sound so different from today’s hip-hop? It turns out one of the biggest reasons may be copyright law. . . . McLeod and DiCola always keep an eye on the bigger picture. They are as interested in the cultural as the legal, and the book succeeds greatly in broad terms as a history of music sampling.” - John McLeod, Flagpole

Creative License is for musicians, music fans and anyone interested in the history of hip-hop, sampling, and mash-ups, as well as for those who are curious about the evolution of US copyright and licensing laws. It’s also incredibly timely, given the present climate of our musical culture, when the internet has made sampling—in every medium—a way of life.” - Christel Loar, PopMatters

“Creative License is recommended not just for music geeks or music business geeks, but for anyone interested in law, the arts or both. Well written and treated with care, McLeod and DiCola’s work should be read on college campuses around the country.” - Stephon Johnson, Amsterdam News

Creative License is a fantastic and deep look at the business, art, culture, ethics, history and future of musical sampling. The authors—respected academics/writers/filmmakers—undertook to interview a really amazingly wide spectrum of people involved in music production, and what emerges is a clear picture of how legal rulings, historical accidents, musical history, good intentions, naked greed, and conflicts of all kind came to produce our current, very broken system for musical sampling. . . . It's a fascinating and important read.” - Cory Doctorow, Boing-Boing

“Readers whose experience started with ‘Can’t Touch This,’ matured with The Gray Album and ended with All Day can expect to have their knowledge substantially broadened. Music junkies, intellectual property lawyers and cultural critics will journey into ‘enemy’ territory. The authors give voices and personalities to sampling artists, holders of publishing and reproduction rights, and the sampled artists who have become a natural resource for the other two groups.“ - David A.M. Goldberg, Honolulu Weekly

“Kembrew McLeod and Peter DiCola have written a masterful exploration of the complex creative, financial, and legal issues raised by digital sampling. Their book should be required reading for anyone with a serious interest in music copyright.”—Jessica Litman, author of Digital Copyright

“The fact that a seemingly simplistic artistic notion—of collecting, meshing, and arranging previously recorded sounds—would eventually result in a sharp and comprehensive book, Creative License, and companion film, Copyright Criminals, is mind boggling. This study is a work of art in itself, so solid that it may leave no other choice but to be sampled as well.”—Chuck D, co-founder of Public Enemy

About the Author

Kembrew McLeod is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Freedom of Expression®: Resistance and Repression in the Age of Intellectual Property and Owning Culture: Authorship, Ownership, and Intellectual Property Law, and co-creator of the documentary film Copyright Criminals.

Peter DiCola is Assistant Professor at Northwestern University School of Law. He is a board member and former Research Director of the Future of Music Coalition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (March 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822348756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822348757
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #743,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great read February 7, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
this book is great for any hip hop or rap eat maker who has concerns about sampling rights and what not.
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4.0 out of 5 stars What killed Hip Hop ? November 27, 2012
By Bunuel
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kembrew McLeod's highly infomatice book provides an thorough review of the history of hip hop music, and how the music industry all but killed this exciting new musical genre.
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