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“No reasonable jury…would recognize the source of the sample”

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Samplers of the world rejoice: in my own mind, recognition is the key to the sampling issue. I’m very glad to hear a judge agrees:

    A federal judge in Nashville has issued the first major ruling in a massive lawsuit over royalties related to rap artists’ sampling of music recorded by R&B legend George Clinton, possibly setting a precedent for how the court will handle related legal matters.

    U.S. District Judge Thomas Higgins concluded there wasn’t enough of Clinton’s Get Off Your A.. and Jam that could be heard in rap group N.W.A.’s early 1990s song 100 Miles and Runnin’ to warrant a royalties payment.

    ”The court finds that no reasonable jury, even one familiar with the works of George Clinton, would recognize the source of the sample without having been told of its source,” Higgins wrote in his opinion released yesterday.

    In May 2001, Southfield, Mich.-based Westbound Records, Clinton’s label in the early to mid-1970s, and its music publishing affiliate Bridgeport Music Inc. filed a 1,077-page lawsuit in Nashville. Westbound seeks to recover millions of dollars in royalties for copyrights it owns on more than 150 songs.

    Bridgeport sued Dimension Films over the use of 100 Miles in a mid-1990s feature film I Got The Hookup, produced by rapper Master P.

    Westbound has challenged a common practice in rap music – sampling other artists’ work to create new music. Though not named as defendants, Ice-T, Ice Cube and Snoop Doggy Dogg were among the rappers Westbound alleged illegally sampled its music.

    Higgins broke the lawsuit into 486 separate cases and is taking them 10 at a time. The first jury trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 12.

    Higgins could make quick work of other cases based on his current ruling.

    ”There’s a number of the cases that involved quantity-wise the insignificant uses of George Clinton music,” said Nashville attorney Sam Lipshie, whose client Miramax Films settled this summer.

If the sample isn’t recognizable, it’s just a building block that could have come from anywhere, a bit of audio let loose on the world.

I love George and wish him well, but the shotgun approach strikes me as counterproductive.

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