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Friday, December 10, 2010

Taking Creative License - Sampling Vs. Stealing

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor

Although I have never had the success of say, Madonna, Motown, or Metallica, I have written my share of tunes, some which have charted. As such, I may offer just a tad of insight on this subject of creative license.

Over the years, I have been confronted with a variety of these situations, in a variety of settings. I have been sampled, borrowed from, quoted, and mentioned by name. On multiple occasions, I have even had the opening act feature my songs in their set-list.

I for one, find the process amusing, and artistically satisfying. As a musician, I started out as an artist first, and my interest remains primarily at the creative level. The business end cannot be neglected, but hey, business is business.

Although I have always been the principle lyricist in my projects, I have never been under the allusion that those words belong to me, and can never be uttered in that particular order again without my consent. Lifting an entire chorus line sounds artistically intrusive, but each situation is unique.

The record companies, however, are somewhat less concerned about my artistic integrity and tend to focus on maximizing profit margins. In fact, they are contractually obligated to do so. Although my attitude may seem relaxed in comparison, the bevy of attorneys minding my books have very little sense of humor.

Keep in mind, the one thing Madonna, Motown and Metallica all have in common? Money, the most important ‘M’ word other than ‘mother’.

Here’s the low down. Chances are, unless you are seeing a substantial profit, no-one is apt to notice or even care if you have sampled without permission. Furthermore, some work like parodies for instance, are above the fray, protected under constitutional right of free speech and expression.

In closing, let’s just say this isn’t your normal cup of soup, folks, I’m afraid we’ve opened a can of unknown substance, frothing just below the surface. My advice, approach with caution. Sampling isn’t a crime, but stealing is unconscionable. Ultimately, you must make the call. Make it a sound one.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor

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