[The following letter was sent to a music writer friend, with the offer to have him interview the filmmakers and musicians. He passed the letter on, because of the questions the film raises about production and consumption, the challenges to our conception of property and creativity. This reflects one of the cutting edges of information technology and what Jeremy Rifkin some years ago argued is the beginning of the end of work. Often stated as undercutting the right of artists to obtain the fruits of their labor, perhaps this technology challenges us, instead, to look at a new way of distributing the product of human/robotic labor — Lew Rosenbaum]
COPYRIGHT CRIMINALS, about music sampling and hip hop, on PBS January 19
For more than thirty years, as hip-hop evolved from the urban streets of New York to its current status as a multibillion dollar industry, hip-hop performers and producers have been re-using portions of previously recorded music in new, otherwise original compositions. But when lawyers and record companies got involved, what was once referred to as a “borrowed melody” became a “copyright infringement.”
COPYRIGHT CRIMINALS, a new film by Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod, will air on the PBS series Independent Lens January 19 (check local listings).
COPYRIGHT CRIMINALS showcases many of hip-hop’s founding figures like Public Enemy, De La Soul and Digital Underground, along with emerging artists such as audiovisual remixers Eclectic Method. It also provides an in-depth look at artists who have been sampled, such as Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown’s drummer and the world’s most sampled musician), as well as commentary by another highly sampled musician, funk legend George Clinton.
Computers, mobile phones, and other interactive technologies are changing our relationship with media, blurring the line between producer and consumer, and radically changing what it means to be creative. As artists find ever more inventive ways to insert old influences into new material, the film asks a critical question: can anyone really own a sound?
You can view a trailer here: http://www.copyrightcriminals.com/?page_id=6
If you’re interested in having the filmmakers and some of the musicians on as guests, I’m happy to send a DVD. Please contact me at your earliest convenience and thanks for your consideration.