Creative License Book Release

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.

Buy the book at Amazon | Powell’s. Learn more at Creative License | Duke University Press

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.

Book Release Readings and Events

To support the release of Creative License, Peter DiCola and Kembrew McLeod will be speaking at a number of locations around the country.

Saturday, Feb 26: Kembrew McLeod hosting a Roundtable: “A Cultural Economy Of Record Collecting, or, What Does Crate-Digging Have To Do With Cultural Policy?” at Experience Music Project’s Pop Conference in Los Angeles, CA. Details

Monday, March 7: Peter DiCola at Washington University, St. Louis, MO

Friday, March 18: Kembrew McLeod a guest on WBEZ’s Sound Opinions. Listen to the show | Download the podcast

Friday, April 8: Peter DiCola at University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, North Quad, room 2435. Screening of Copyright Criminals documentary at 7:00pm followed by discussion.

Thursday, April 14: Peter DiCola speaking to IP law students at American University – Washington College of Law, Washington, DC

Friday, April 15: Peter DiCola at American University - Washington College of Law, 4801 N. Massachusetts Ave., 6th Floor, Washington, DC. Reception at 4:00 PM, followed by a lecture and panel discussion at 4:30 PM. Sponsored by the Copyright Society, the Glushko Samuelson Clinic, and the Center for Social Media. Details

Saturday, April 16: Peter DiCola at Busboys and Poets 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM, Washington, DC. Details

Monday, April 18: Peter DiCola speaking to communications students at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA

Tuesday, April 19: Peter DiCola at Junto at P’unk Ave, 6:00 PM in Philadelphia, PA. Details

Wednesday, April 20: Peter DiCola speaking to music industry students at Drexel University Music Industry Program in Philadelphia, PA

Thursday, April 21: Peter DiCola at Riverread Bookstore in Binghamton, NY, 6:30 PM

Tuesday, April 26: Peter DiCola and Kembrew McLeod at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, IA

About The Authors

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.

Buy the book

Amazon | Duke University Press

Praise for the book

“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

Interviewees include:

Steve Albini, Recording engineer and musician
Aesop Rock
Big Gipp, Goodie Mob
Craig Baldwin
Vicki Bennett, People Like Us
Matt Black, Coldcut
David Byrne
Cappadonna, Wu-Tang Clan
Cee-Lo, Gnarls Barkley and Goodie Mob
George Clinton, Parliament-Funkadelic
Chuck D, Public Enemy
Wayne Coyne, Flaming Lips
Drew Daniel, Matmos
DJ Muggs, Cypress Hill
DJ Qbert, Invisibl Skratch Piklz
DJ Premier, Gang Starr
DJ Vadim
Lloyd Dunn, the Tape-beatles
Ian Edgar, Eclectic Method
Eyedeas & Abilities
Flaggs, Land of Da Lost
Geoff Gamlen, Eclectic Method
Bobbito Garcia
Guru, Gang Starr
Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk
TradeMark Gunderson, Evolution Control Committee
Miho Hatori, Cibo Matto
John Heck, the Tape-beatles
Hell Razah, Sunz of Man
Mark Hosler, Negativland
Wyclef Jean, The Fugees
Don Joyce, Negativland
Rass Kass
Kid 606
Killah Priest, Wu-Tang Clan
Kool Keith
Lady Miss Kier
Tim Love
MC Eiht
MC Lyte
MC Schmidt, Matmos
Richard McGuire, Liquid Liquid
Meen Green
Method Man, Wu-Tang Clan
Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky
Mix Master Mike, Invisibl Skratch Piklz & the Beastie Boys
Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth
Mr. Dibbs
Mr. Len
Mr. Lif
Lou Nutt, Land of Da Lost
Yoko Ono
Pam the Funkstress, The Coup
Pasemaster Mase, De La Soul
Pete Rock
Posdnuos, De La Soul
Pras, The Fugees
Prefuse 73
Tim Quirk, Wonderlick & Too Much Joy
Lee Ranaldo, Sonic Youth
Boots Riley, The Coup
RZA, Wu-Tang Clan
Sage Francis
Shock G, Digital Underground
Hank Shocklee, Public Enemy
Clyde Stubblefield, The James Brown Band
T La Rock
Trugoy, De La Soul
Twick, graffiti artist
Saul Williams
Jonny Wilson, Eclectic Method

Entertainment Lawyers and Recording Industry Executives

Eothan Alapatt, Stones Throw Records
Andrew Bart, entertainment lawyer
Anthony Berman, music lawyer
Whitney Broussard, music lawyer
Ken Freundlich, music lawyer
Dean Garfield, MPAA VP of Anti-Piracy
Mia Garlick, formerly general counsel of Creative Commons
Michael Hausman, music manager (Suzanne Vega, Aimee Mann)
Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua (Kanye West management team member)
Mark Kates, formerly of Grand Royal Records
Dina LaPolt, music lawyer (clients include Tupac’s estate)
Walter McDonough, music lawyer, FMC co-founder, and FMC’s general counsel
Neeru Paharia, Creative Commons
Philo Farnsworth, Illegal Art label founder
Rick Prelinger, Prelinger Archives
Danny Rubin, sample clearance expert
Pat Shanahan, sample clearance expert
Tom Silverman, Tommy Boy Records CEO
Bill Stafford, publisher-side clearance expert
Brian Zisk, entrepreneur, FMC co-founder, and FMC technology director
Shoshana Zisk, music lawyer

Scholars and Journalists

Harry Allen, Hip-Hop Activist and Media Assassin
Raquel Cepeda, journalist and hip-hop historian
Jeff Chang, journalist and hip-hop historian
Joanna Demers, musicologist at University of Southern California
Lawrence Ferrara, musicologist at New York University and sampling expert witness
William Terry Fisher, Professor of Law, Harvard University
Jane Ginsburg, Professor of Law, Columbia University
Peter Jaszi, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law
Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law, Harvard University
Carrie McLaren, Stay Free! Magazine and Illegal Art Show curator
David Sanjek, Director, Popular Music Research Centre at University of Salford
Joe Schloss, ethnomusicologist at New York University
Greg Tate, journalist and music historian
Siva Vaidhyanathan, media studies scholar at University of Virginia