Every day this week, we will be featuring portions of an interview that FMC’s Kristin Thomson conducted with Peter DiCola and Kembrew McLeod, co-authors of the recently-released book Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling (Duke University Press). Peter and Kembrew spent over five years pulling together the materials for this book, which details the development of the sample license clearance process through the eyes of musicians, rightsholders, attorneys, clearance experts and historians.
Interview: Part 5
Kristin: The book concludes with well-thought-out strategies for addressing the sampling problem. What do you each hope that this book does for the discourse about sampling and creativity?
Kristin: There’s one thing that I notice as a reader of the book is that we all assume that sampling is the purview of hip-hop artists in the studio, but maybe you can both reflect on how it’s becoming ingrained or embedded in our culture right now. Thanks to technology, we’re all becoming remixers, aren’t we?
Kembrew: Exactly. The issue of sampling doesn’t just simply affect hip-hop artists or just audio remix artists. One of the things that the book makes clear is that you can see sampling as kind of a microcosm of the new entertainment culture. Just think about how music is used as the basic audio building block for commercials, video games, movies, television shows, and on and on. The people who license their songs for those uses are implicated into this legal system. They themselves can end up getting sued if they license a song that contains an uncleared sample. So in other words, we’re facing this massive licensing logjam that’s only going to get worse in the coming years and decades. That’s because more and more of the culture that gets produced contains references to previous musical or visual texts. That’s why it’s an important issue for everyone.
Peter: Right, and this gets back to copyright’s expansion over recent decades. One of the ways copyright has expanded is that copyrights last longer than they used to. But a more subtle way that copyright has expanded is that smaller and smaller pieces of larger works are now protected. Neither the public nor its legislators have had when I would consider a meaningful debate about whether 1.9 seconds of a sound recording should be subject to copyright. It is only becoming more prevalent for ordinary people to use small snippets of existing copyrighted works. It should interest everyone that the law and the music business arrive at a more sensible solution.
To support the book’s release, Peter and Kembrew are doing a number of public events and readings, including:
Tuesday, April 26: Peter DiCola and Kembrew McLeod at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, IA