The code of the beat.

‘Copyright Criminals’ Comes Up Short


Sampling Documentary Too Limited in Scope; Does Not Succeed in Illuminating the Sampling/Copyright Issue, and Fails to Flush Out the Meaning and Cultural Value of the Art of Sampling

By Amir Said (Sa’id)

Last night (Tuesday, January 19) PBS premiered Copyright Criminals, a documentary film based on the art of sampling and the complexities that surround it. Billed as the examination of the “creative and commercial value of musical sampling,” Copyright Criminals is mostly off base and surprisingly limited in scope.

The film opens with a very predictable titles on black definition of sampling:
“Sample (v)
1: to use a segment of another’s musical recording as part of one’s own recording.

I found this definition to be very misleading and rather disturbing. What’s the purpose and significance of including the description: “another’s musical recording,” and not simply “sound recording?” The art of sampling—in its most fundamental meaning—is less about possession and more about creation, style, and reconstruction of any recorded sound that appeals to the would-be sampler. So as to where the filmmakers received that definition of “sample,” is unclear. However, it is clear, right from the start, that the filmmakers intend to frame their discussion of the art of sampling in a context of ownership rather than one of art and/or cultural significance. Although I expected the ownership context (given the name of the film), I was surprised by Copyright Criminal’s otherwise lax coverage of the cultural and artistic context of the art of sampling. Note. Heavy screen time with drummer Clyde Stublefield, member of James Brown’s band (1965-1970), was appreciated, but not at the expense of a more thorough exploration of sampling’s origins in the hip hop/rap and beatmaking traditions.

The next thing that I find rather troubling about Copyright Criminals is the fact that the film does not attempt to draw a distinction between the art of sampling in the beatmaking tradition of hip hop/rap music and the current so-called “remix culture.” Instead, the film tries to (forcefully) situate the art of sampling as the nucleus of this remix culture. Wrong! The art of sampling does not come from, nor does it subscribe to, the parameters of remix culture (as first coined and described best by Lawrence Lessig). To be certain, the art of sampling—in the hip hop/rap tradition—is something entirely different than the “remix culture” of now. The art of sampling in hip hop/rap music is a direct outgrowth of the methods of early hip hop/rap DJs, a very critical distinction that Copyright Criminals mentions but fails to thoroughly flush out. Moreover, the film seems to ignore what the remix culture really is: the outgrowth of the combination of the outer limits of late 1990s hip hop/rap music, more advanced and accessible sampling technology, and the illegal download climate of contemporary culture. The latter component of this combination is never even raised in the film.

Copyright Criminals also features some rather curious interviewee choices.
Many of the interviewees (presumably drafted by the filmmakers for their expertise on the art of sampling or the legal complexities surrounding it) will be unfamiliar to most. More importantly, what was particularly disturbing was the absence of at least one hip hop/rap sample-based architect from the pioneering ranks that include: Marley Marl, DJ Premier, The RZA, Dr. Dre, Large Professor, Pete Rock (appears in a 3 second sound bite), DJ Shadow, Buckwild, Showbiz, Prince Paul, or the like. Indeed, some on-screen feedback from at least one of these pioneers should have been included. A discussion without at least one of them, or even a mention of them and/or their positions on and contribution to the art of sampling was, at best, irresponsible; at worst, it was negligent and reckless.

In fact, even just a bit of discussion with Just Blaze, or 9th Wonder, or some other post-pioneer sample-based beatmaker would have been more encouraging. And to be clear: I have nothing against DJ Abilities and Eyedea, or Sage Francis, or Miho Hatori, or Malmos (MC Schmidt and Drew Daniel). However, the question that begs to be answered is: What sort of informational reference point are the filmmakers trying to convey by featuring these particular artists (samplers)? Documentary films have the power of presumed authenticity. Thus, without any prior knowledge of the art of sampling, one might believe (assume) that these aforementioned artists (samplers) are indeed experts on or representative of the sampling field. Notwithstanding any of their talents or knowledge, however, they can not substitute for the 10 or so sampling architects that I previously mentioned.

I was also alarmed by the fact that the negative bias against sampling never seemed to be seriously challenged. Case in point is when Steve Albini (musician/recording engineer) rants against the art of sampling, using the very tired and superficial assessment of sampling as a “lazy” method of musical creation. Albini comes off as both an music elitist and someone who’s clearly uninformed about hip hop culture, the hip hop/rap music tradition, and the art of sampling. In speaking about sampling he says:
“As a creative tool for someone to use a sample of a piece of existing music, for their music, I think it’s an extraordinarily lazy artistic choice. It’s much easier to take something that is already awesome and play it again with your name on it.”
Right. As if that’s really what the art of sampling is about.

The fact that the filmmakers chose not to include even one interviewee to directly address or counter Steve Albini’s claims was rather disappointing to me. Moreover, to add insult to Albini’s woefully uninformed statement, right after he’s done speaking, the film cuts to an image of MC Hammer winning an award for the song “Can’t Touch This” (1990), a song that uses a prominent sample of Rick James’ hit song, “Super Freak” (1981). This is an incredibly frustrating moment in Copyright Criminals, as here, the film seems to imply that not only is Albini right, but also that Hammer’s use of “Super Freak” personifies what the art of sampling is all about—as if that’s the only and most fundamental form of the art of sampling in the beatmaking tradition of hip hop/rap music. And notwithstanding MC Hammer’s commercial popularity, the film makes absolutely no effort to give context to viewers as to who MC Hammer was or his position in the hip hop/rap lexicon, or even how his use of sampling wasn’t even necessarily respected by his peers in 1990. Unfortunately, however, if you’re unfamiliar with who MC Hammer is/was, which is the case for most current 13 to 30 year-olds, then this point is lost. But to perhaps give you context I’ll say this: Using MC Hammer to personify the serious art of sampling is like using Diddy (Puff Daddy) to personify the serious art of complex lyricism.

Finally, as for the “copyright” spectrum of Copyright Criminals, there is much left to be desired there as well. I expected the film to include some discussion of what American copyright law and policy is. I mean, at least something on what the code of the Copyright Act actually says—especially as it pertains to sound recordings—was certainly warranted in a documentary of this nature. Unfortunately, there is no direct discussion of current American copyright law or even a brief break down of the original intent and purpose of American copyright law. Furthermore, although pivotal sampling infringement cases and suits are casually discussed and/or alluded to in the film, we really get nothing more than a glimpse of De La Soul’s trouble with The Turtles, and Biz Markie’s and Warner’s problem with Gilbert O’Sullivan; we don’t get the real picture (details) as to how De La Soul’s and Biz Markie’s predicaments affected the perception of the art of sampling and the subsequent legal policy towards it.

The Bottom line

Though there are some areas in Copyright Criminals that I found engaging and, at times, somewhat encouraging, (specifically the segments with media professor, Siva Vaidhyanathan), overall, the film just flat out disappoints. The fact that this documentary tries to (forcefully) situate the art of sampling within the new, supposedly grander “remix culture” is not only unfair to the chief architects and pioneers of the art of sampling, it’s an utterly absurd gesture to hip hop/rap culture in general, as it implies that hip hop is a part of remix culture…not that remix culture itself is, in part, an outgrowth of the outer fringes of the hip hop/rap music tradition.

Furthermore, Copyright Criminals avoids delving deeper into the meaning and origins of the art of sampling, and how it might be reconciled with the original intent and purpose of American copyright law and policy. Indeed, make no mistake, Copyright Criminals is squarely focused on the art of sampling within an ownership (property) framework, not the context of artistic innovation or even the cultural parameters from which sampling was born. Because of this, the film comes off just as bland as some of the re-hashed, uninformed arguments made against the art of sampling. As a result, Copyright Criminals actually fails to illuminate the legal complexities surrounding sampling, and it offers no solution to or even a thoroughly clear scope of the problem associated with sampling and copyright law.

Articles, Reviews

About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual

  • Heir

    Well said and I couldn’t agree with you more…
    I had a similar sour taste in my mouth when I watched the “beatmakers” documentary on youtube. Aww man…

  • Heir, thank you for your comment.
    Thats how I felt… Aww man…  And what troubles me the most is how this will be paraded around like its *the truth*.  Very disheartening to see the art of sampling treated in such a non-in-depth manner.
    — Said

  • i didn’t even know it was on, didn’t watch it either…of course it sounds like they covered it from “their” perspective.
    you need to make a Beat Tips documentary sa’id!

  • Donproductionsbeatz

    This was meant to downplay sampling?Sampling is music,that guy seemed so bitter talking about sampling,they said sampling a note is wrong?Wow,music was around before this people its a culture.Sa’id this response article is great.Unfortunately they give the wrong people TV airtime.I just felt weird they actually aired this on national TV,wow.

  • Siva Vaidhyanathan

    Thank you for the nice comments about my contribution to Copyright Criminals.
    I think you misinterpreted the filmmakers’ point of view. And I fear you might not appreciate the expense, complexity, and difficulty in putting together such a film.
    It might help to explore producer Kembrew McLeod’s clear and popular work in defense of sampling and hip-hop culture:
    Kembrew is a highly regarded expert on copyright law and how it influences culture. He is also an activist for more reasonable copyright that would allow artists to make what they want. I thought that his position was clear in the film. He included voices of those who do not agree because that was the right thing to do. Documentaries are should not be screeds.
    You will find that he does not believe what you think he believes.
    But to your larger points: it is impossible in a one-hour documentary to delve into the historical and legal complexities that you outline above.
    And to the question of the cast of characters: Some people agree to be in a film. Others do not. You can’t do anything about that. So this is an unfair criticism.
    Also, please remember that such a film is intended for those who know little about the subject. Experts are always going to wish that this or that were included. If a filmmaker had to satisfy all experts, films would be five hours long.

  • Siva Vaidhyanathan,
    First, its an honor to receive a comment from you.  Ive read some of your work on copyright law and culture, and you strike me as someone who is thoughtful, candid, and in constant pursuit of those objective truths…when and wherever they can be found.
    As for your assessment that I may have misinterpreted the filmmakers point of view, I must disagree with you.  For starters, in my review of Copyright Criminals, I at no time—directly or indirectly—raised the notion of what I think (or do not think) the filmmakers point of view is.  Furthermore, I certainly did not imply that the filmmakers are against the art of sampling, nor did I suggest that they are against any reasonable solutions to the copyright issue surrounding sampling.
    As for your assessment that I somehow might not appreciate the expense, complexity, and difficulty in putting together such a film, again, I must disagree with you.  I can assure that I most certainly appreciate the efforts of any filmmaker; and I am acutely aware of the process that goes into creating a documentary of this magnitude.  I appreciate and understand the issues that arise due to funding; I appreciate and understand the issues that are involved with soliciting interviews, executing interviews, and securing releases for said interviews; I appreciate and understand the issues associated with travel; I appreciate and understand the issues that occur when shooting principle photography; I appreciate and understand the issues that are ultimately associated with a truly collaborative work; I appreciate and understand the issues associated with meticulous research, particularly the 100s (if not thousands) of hours spent scouring through historical film/video footage and printed materials; and, indeed, I appreciate and understand the expense, complexity, and difficulty that all of the aforementioned issues generate.  That being said, however, I gave a review of Copyright Criminals; I did not offer a critique of how Copyright Criminals was brought to the market.  Also, I should point out that an understanding of the labors of filmmaking is certainly not a pre-requisite for reviewing and considering the merits of the film itself.   
    As for Kembrew McLeods clear and popular work in defense of sampling and hip-hop culture, at no point in my review of Copyright Criminals did I make a claim to the contrary; nor did I question his high regard as an expert on copyright law and how it influences culture; and nor did I raise any suspicion about his work as an activist for more reasonable copyright that would allow artists to make what they want.  In fact, I am aware of Mr. McLeod and some of his work…which is why I expected more—in particular, a brief description of what American copyright actually states about sound recordings, and how that came into being.  (Certainly, McLeod knows this—as you do; and, therefore, it would not have taken more than 2-3 minutes of screen time to present this information.)
    As for the filmmakers including voices of those who do not agree, I didnt have a qualm with that at all.  Any responsible documentary absolutely requires it.  However, if you care to re-read my review of Copyright Criminals, you will notice that I made no objection to the inclusion of disagreeable voices.  Instead, my concern was with certain voices (positions) being left unchallenged.  As I made clear in my review of Copyright Criminals, Steve Albinis vantage point—as widely held as it may be in some circles—wasnt challenged at all by another interviewee, or even a written statement (titles on black).  And while the filmmakers chose to follow Albinis point up with an M.C. Hammer clip (I suppose to give credence to Albinis point), they neglected to indicate—directly or indirectly—that in no way was M.C. Hammer and/or his use of Rick James Super Freak a personification of hip hop/rap music or the art of sampling.
    As for your assessment that I will find that he [McLeod] does not believe what [I] think he believes, you are off-base.  In my review of Copyright Criminals, I did not make any claims as to what I thought McLeod does or does not believe.  In fact, because I am aware of who McLeod is, I would gather that hes supportive of the art of sampling; and again, in my review, I make no suggestion to the contrary.
    As for the possibilities of delving into the historical and legal complexities that [I] outline, in a one-hour documentary, here, too, I must disagree with you.  Were not talking about a four-hour seminar on the origins of the art of sampling, or the history of American copyright law and policy.  Instead, a brief, deliberate survey of the two would have certainly sufficed.  (In fact, there are numerous examples of where interviewee screen-time could have been truncated—if not omitted altogether—in favor of such a survey.)
    As for your assessment of the cast of characters, specifically, your point that some people agree to be in a film. Others do not. You cant do anything about that, surely, you cant be suggesting that the filmmakers were right to use filler interviewees as substitutes for those interviewees that they desired, but could not land? I cant attest to who the filmmakers actually reached out to for an interview, for the making of Copyright Criminals.  However, of the 10 or so pivotal names that could have (should have) been interviewed, specifically, Marley Marl (perhaps the single most important architect of modern sampling in hip hop/rap music) and/or DJ Premier (one of samplings chief pioneers), I find it hard to believe that they were not accessible.  Indeed, for my book, The BeatTips Manual, both granted me extensive access.  Needless to say, my criticism of some of the rather questionable cast of characters is more than fair.
    Finally, as for your suggestion that I please remember that such a film is intended for those who know little
    about the subject, and that I also consider the fact that experts are always going to wish that this or that
    were included, your reminder is misguided.  Copyright Criminals is not a summer action flick; its a documentary on sampling and the copyright issues that surround it.  Of course, you are aware that this is a very specific and rather serious topic (niche).  Therefore, it should have been presumed that many of those interested in viewing such a documentary—many of which were non-experts—were already familiar with some of the surface-level issues regarding the subject matter of the film; and thus, any dumb-downing of the material should have been kept to a minimum.  Furthermore, whether presenting an introductory or an advanced effort, there are certain fundamental areas that can ill-afford to be overlooked.  For example, the film opens with a definition of sample, just a simple titles on black.  So am I to believe that something similar could not have been done with two paragraphs of what the actual Copyright Act states, or just one sentence of what Congress states is the purpose of copyright?  If Copyright Criminals was indeed for those who know little about the subject, and not for experts, then the filmmakers bore an even greater responsibility to include direct discussion of clearly fundamental elements of the debate.  And the particular absence of any direct discussion of the simple purpose of American copyright law was negligent.  That being said, I appreciated the mention (albeit brief) of the fact that the concept of borrowing has long played a role in the creation of new art.           
    Bottom line: My review of Copyright Criminals was a review of the documentary that was presented to the public.  Despite some engaging moments within the film, this documentary was mostly a disappointment.  That does not mean—nor did I say in my review—that I do not appreciate (respect) the filmmakers efforts.  You were wrong to suggest that I may not have appreciated the complexity and difficulty involved in the making of a film such as this, or that I somehow did not appreciate the time, energy, resources, and thoughtfulness that the filmmakers did put into this project.  Moreover, you were wrong to imply that the complexity involved in making such a documentary somehow boosts its good merits, excuses its short-comings, and/or excludes it from criticism.
    More than anything, I respect and appreciate the fact that, fundamentally, the filmmakers are attempting to bring awareness to the holes in current copyright laws, especially as it pertains to sampling and sound recordings. 
    However, my point is this: The filmmakers could have—and should have—built a much better mouse trap; especially considering McLeods background in copyright law, and his apparent support of the art of sampling.
    All in all, though, I sincerely, thank you for visiting my site and taking the time to comment.  As I mentioned in the beginning, I have a tremendous amount of respect for you and your work in the studies of copyright law and culture.  I look forward to continuing a dialogue with you on these and other related fields of study.
    — Amir Said (Said)

  • Heir

    @ Said
    Man your official with it my brother! O F F I C I A L! So eloquently put and on point. I was having a similar debate with the makers of a new movie coming out called “battle” (and a doc they made called “beatmakers” -Aww man…).
    The whole argument about time, effort, input, etc…does not make it so a movie or piece of work cannot be critiqued. To challenge your respect/knowledge for all that goes into a project was laughable for anyone who knows your work.
    I just wanted to let you know that I truly appreciate your wisdom and un denying love for all that is hip hop (mainly production). Your a wealth of knowledge and most certainly speak the gospel that I live and understand daily.

  • Sigh. I’ve grown weary of critics who critique other people’s work using a tone that can be read as highly destructive. If there are holes critics should fill them in and not label the entire enterprise a failure for not serving their own interests, or agendas.
    I feel that a more in-depth analysis of both the creative and commercial variables related to musical sampling would simply not fit into a 60-minute format. No way. Not for the PBS audience which is made up of 40% college educated, upper-middle to upper class households (only 12% are black/latino).
    For the first time in a long time I greatly appreciated seeing PBS programming that reaches those in my demographic (black, upper-lower to middle class). However I did miss Pam the Funkstress (I’m black AND female) whose photo is on the home page of the Copyright Criminals web site. What’s up with that? Did she end up on the cutting room floor?
    Hip-hop is not strictly music, or more specifically it’s not just about rap music. Hip-hop is culture. Hip-hop birthed remix culture just like graffiti birthed street art. As a subset of hip-hop and remix culture I felt that there was adequate coverage on musical sampling, especially considering the PBS demographic. As an educator I can spin out and expand from the introduction, to address my own interests and agenda. I suggest the critics here do the same.

  • Thank you for your comment.  (I would have like to have known your name, as I like to have constructive dialogue with anyone who comments on my blog or reaches out to me.)
    So I gathered that you take exception with my review of Copyright Criminals.  However, I’m not exactly clear as to why you take exception.  First, you indicate a problem with my tone, specifically, you imply that it can be read as highly destructive.  My tone was direct, thorough, and consistent with the concerns that I raised in my review.  Furthermore, my questions to you are,  What is inappropriate about my tone, and what is it destructive to?  I wrote a review of an anticipated documentary that was based on a subject matter that Im interested in.  Not only am I familiar with the themes presented within this particular documentary, I’m familiar with some of Kembrew McLeods other work.  Needless to say, I expected more from the film; thus, the title of my review: “‘Copyright Criminals’ Comes up Short.”  I never said—nor did I imply— that the entire enterprise (as you put it) was a failure.  If you carefully re-read my review, you will notice that I acknowledge that I found some areas engaging, and I particularly appreciated Clyde Stubblefields contribution.  Still, it’s worth noting that I did not mention everything that I enjoyed in Copyright Criminals.  Likewise, I did not go into everything that I disliked about the film. 
    Now, the more that I expected was certainly not impossible to achieve in a 1hr segment.  As I mentioned to another critic of my review, most of the fundamental concerns that I had about the film could have been addressed in roughly 15 minutes of screen time…tops.  I raised these concerns in my review, and I offered up suggestions as to how and why they might have been addressed. 
    Next.  As far as Copyright Criminals serving my own interests and agenda, you couldn’t be further off-base.  My fundamental concerns regarding sampling are: (1) an accurate portrayal and dissemination of the art of sampling; and (2) the amendment of the Copyright Act to include permissible levels of sampling.  I did not expect this film to cover every nook and cranny of the art of sampling.  Nor did I expect this film to convince Congress to immediately change the code of the Copyright Act.  I did expect this film to help move the conversation about the art of sampling more into the mainstream…which it did.  Moreover, I also suspect that this film will inevitably help to get more wheels turning in Congress, which will help affect the sort of change that Im looking for.  In other words, please make no mistake about it: Copyright Criminals is actually very much in line with my own interests and agendas!  That being said, however, it doesnt mean that there werent a number of things that the film simply did not do well.  
    Next.  You seem to believe that PBS drove this project, and not the filmmakers.  Sure, there were perhaps some compromises to be made (here and there), but, by and large, this project was the responsibility of the filmmakers.  And as for the PBS Audience that you describe, hmmm… Im not exactly sure that I totally agree with you.  But more importantly, did you happen to catch the recent PBS airing of that Sam Cooke documentary… or how about the one they aired on Marvin Gaye… or what about the Ken Burns series on Jazz? The Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye programs—both very illuminating—were each 1-hr segments.  Both docs were thorough, hitting on every fundamental note while raising some important new points.  Imagine if the filmmakers of both of those works used the constraint of 1 full hour of screen as some sort of setback…
    Here, I must note that I did not expect ‘Copyright Criminals’ to be solely about hip hop culture or hip hop/rap music.  I knew beforehand what the vehicle-context of the film would be: the so-called remix culture.  That being said, if a filmmaker sets out to tell one story, then I expect them to tell it.  Moreover, if that filmmaker finds he needs to borrow another story to make the case for the one hes attempting to tell, then I expect him to make sure that he hits the fundamental notes of the story that hes borrowing.  The so-called remix culture is perhaps nice coinage and an easy way to describe some recent forms of cultural borrowing.  However, remix culture—as seductive a phrase as it is—is merely a new name for an electronic (digital) form of an old American cultural activity.  Although hip hop birthed the art of sampling, I wouldn’t say that hip hop birthed remix culture.  And I’m confident that the filmmakers of Copyright Criminals would agree. 
    Finally, as far as your suggestion to me and the readers of my blog to spin out and expand from the introduction so that we can address our own interests and agendas, I take extreme exception.  Your accusation that neither my readers or myself have not spun out from the introduction is baseless and condescending.  Furthermore, your self-described status as an educator does not automatically give you some purer sense of objectivity, nor does it grant you any special ability to parse out the filler material of a respectable—yet flawed—documentary that seeks to explore the art of sampling and the legal issues surrounding it.
    P.S., Whoever said that hip hop is all about music?  or that hip hop isnt a culture?  In fact, I can assure you that a thorough read of chapters 1 and 2 of my book, The BeatTips Manual, will put to rest any of your concerns about whether or not I know if hip hop is a culture.
    Amir Said (Said)

  • NettieB

    Dear Amir Said.
    I was responding not only to your comments but the tone of the thread, in general. I am a visual and new media artist (and a woman) who has sampled a beat or two, thus my comment on the missing footage of the Funktress and females in the documentary. I’m not looking for props, nor am I here to promote my work. I just love hip-hop, as well as the intersection of art, technology, and community and the effects of capitalism on culture.
    I am not questioning your knowledge of and passion for music sampling. In my response I referred to the PBS demographic and yes I do think the company had some input in what was included in the final documentary and what was not. I have some knowledge of the editorial process for television (and for PBS). I, too, have had work distributed by PBS online.
    The reason I wrote that the tone was destructive is because I thought, ‘What if the filmmakers or Independent Lens read this thread? Would they think twice next time before creating or greenlighting similar topics or content in the future?’ I want to see MORE of this kind of format and themes.
    Also, the title of the piece is “Copyright Criminals’, not “The Art of Sampling” or “Independent Lens: The Clyde Stubblefield Documentary”. By the way, Stubblefield was the main highlight for me. It was what it was: a general overview of the creative and commercial aspects of music sampling for the PBS audience. I imagine that if the viewer response is overwhelmingly positive (or they sell lots of DVDs) I can expect to see more programming that is more in-depth, or highlights the pioneers and innovators of what is a valid art form (including women).
    Finally based on the format, who was involved in producing the film, and for whom the programming is for I found Copyright Criminals to be above average and slightly exceeding my expectation.
    ~ NettieB

  • NettieB, thank you for your comment and reply.
    Your contribution to this thread is very helpful.  I, too, share a strong interest in the intersection of art, technology, and community and the effects of capitalism on culture, so I am grateful that you introduced this point into the discussion.  Thing is though, when certain areas of hip hop are explored anywhere near the mainstream (and lets be clear, I do not consider PBS as mainstream like, lets say, MSNBC) far too often, certain areas of hip hop culture get either misrepresented and/or misinterpreted.  However, as much as I do not like this fact, I do indeed understand the process by which programming of this nature can be compromised. 
    Now, when this sort of compromise occurs, as a member, student, educator, fan, and consumer of hip hop culture, I find it necessary to comment—as objectively as possible—on those products that interest me and my readership.  Thus, in the case of Copyright Criminals, my review was in direct response to one of the two major themes that underscored the film: sampling.
    In its coverage of sampling (more specifically the art of sampling), I found that Copyright Criminals did an average job in some areas; a poor job in others; and yet still, a decent job in other areas.  Thus, the title of my review, Copyright Criminals Comes up Short.  I did not say, nor do I believe that Copyright Criminals was a failure.  The film merely stopped short of its full potential. 
    Perhaps if Copyright Criminals was separated in two parts, one for sampling and the other for remix culture, the project would have been more helpful.  In fact, this is why I hope that the filmmakers, the green-lighters at PBS, and the people at Independent Lens do indeed read my review of Copyright Criminals as well as my subsequent replies to the commenters here at  Of course there is some editorial input by PBS; even James Cameron, maker of the film, Avatar, had to work within the studio system to get the best possible rendition of what he wanted.  So sure there are compromises to be made along the way.  But again, if you carefully read my review, the concerns that I raise about Copyright Criminals could have been easily fixed.  For example, the filmmakers did not need PBS permission to simply name the fame Biz Markie copyright infringement case.  Something such as this could have easily been represented with subtitles—no lost screen time. 
    As far as Copyright Criminals being  a general overview of the creative and commercial aspects of music sampling for the PBS audience, I think that the film did a fair job.  But this is exactly the sort of dialogue and discussion that I think is needed.  If the filmmakers and/or their associates and people at PBS and Independent Lens have indeed read my review and the subsequent comments and replies, then thats a good thing.  By seeing how much interest that the art of sampling and its surrounding issues draws, I would hope that PBS, Independent Lens, and the filmmakers would recognize how much support would be for an even more in-depth exploration of sampling… perhaps a Copyright Criminals, part 2.  I support the efforts of the filmmakers of Copyright Criminals.  Likewise, Im grateful that PBS and Independent Lens picked it up and gave it an outlet.  And I would be even more supportive if PBS and Independent Lens expanded this sort of (much-needed) programming.  
    Thank you, again, NettieB… I sincerely hope that you become a regular around here.    

  • NettieB

    Amir Said, I think we can both agree and agree to disagree on several points!
    My colleague told me about your blog and after checking it out I decided to respond…it’s been a fruitful discussion in my opinion. Both of my parents were musicians (flute, violin) and I am an avid fan of music and hip-hop culture, as I mentioned earlier.
    All the best to you!
    – NettieB

  • NettieB,
    I actually believe you and I agree with each other more than disagree.  Moreover, I feel that we both share a strong affection and admiration for hip hop culture, particularly its musical expression…
    Im glad that your colleague told you about my blog, because I feel fortunate to have been to share and trade ideas with you.  I, too, believe that its been a fruitful discussion!  Lets keep in contact and have even more dialogue about music, and how commerce inevitably affects it.
    Thank you, for your sincere—and very thoughtful—contribution to this discussion.
    — Amir Said (Said) {} 

  • The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.