The day before MCA passed away, the Beastie Boys were hit with a lawsuit over samples used on Licensed to Ill and Paul’s Boutique. Slate notes that Paul’s Boutique couldn’t be made today, which echoes the licensing math in the excellent book Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling.
I like the idea that the most fitting tribute to the life of Adam Yauch would be to fix the disaster that is copyright law once and for all.
Forget the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, where’s the Adam Yauch Right To Sample Act? We shouldn’t even have to fight for our right to sample.
Here’s where the story gets truly silly. When KRS-One sampled Grand Funk Railroad’s cover of “Inside Looking Out,” he needed the permission of both the owner of the recording and the underlying composition. This is in spite of the fact that the sample is from an instrumental section that Grand Funk added, and that doesn’t reference the original melody at all. And even though Jay-Z sampled KRS-One’s unaccompanied vocal, he also needed to get copyright permission from everyone sampled in KRS-One’s track. Including Alan Lomax.
Cory Doctorow looks at the new book Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling. (Which I now need to order.)
The best example of this is a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the cost to clear the samples on two of the best-loved, uncleared albums of all times: the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique and Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet, both of which typify the kind of album that couldn’t possibly be made today. By the authors’ math, Black Planet would lose $6.8 million in sampling fees on 1.5 million sales; Paul’s Boutique would lose an eye-popping $19.8M on its sales of 2.5m.