Copyright Criminals

Copyright Criminals

Available on iTunes, Pluto TV, Prime Video, Tubi TV
Copyright Criminals examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, including the related debates over artistic expression, copyright law, and (of course) money. This documentary traces the rise of hip-hop from the urban streets of New York to its current status as a multibillion-dollar industry. For more than thirty years, innovative hip-hop performers and producers have been re-using portions of previously recorded music in new, otherwise original compositions. When lawyers and record companies got involved, what was once referred to as a “borrowed melody” became a “copyright infringement.” The film showcases many of hip-hop music’s founding figures like Public Enemy, De La Soul, and Digital Underground—while also featuring emerging hip-hop artists from record labels Definitive Jux, Rhymesayers, Ninja Tune, and more. 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. As artists find ever more inventive ways to insert old influences into new material, this documentary asks a critical question, on behalf of an entire creative community: Can you own a sound? USA Today calls Copyright Criminals "...a compelling and insightful documentary illuminating both sides of a hotly debated issue: Should the original artists get paid when someone samples their work? Are current copyright laws out of step with our mashed-up, high-tech culture?" "...an amazing documentary on the history of sampling" -Rob Sheffield, Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone."...so vibrant in presentation and in its use of audio/visual mash-ups proving their points that it's not only one of the most enjoyable documentaries you've seen in a while, it's one of the only ones you can dance to." - Hartford Courant. "Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod's exceptionally smart and energetic documentary lays out the complexities of sampling--artistic and political, legal and philosophical." - PopMatters.com
Director Benjamin Franzen, Kembrew McLeod