Upcoming producers need to be aware of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 when distributing sample-based music. According to John Lindenbaum, a Princeton University graduate, this act provides holders of musical composition copyrights the exclusive right to reproduce the music, make a derivative work based on the copyrighted music, distribute the work publicly, perform the music publicly, and display the work publicly. Although this act was established before the birth of digital media, it continues to serve as the foundation of the Copyright Law. Lindenbaum also mentioned, the WIPO Treaty Implementation Act was considered an extension of copyrights to the digital realm. Copyright infringement is when copyrighted work is used without permission. Violating the copyright holder may result in legal penalties (see below). Facts and ideas are usually fair game and considered to be public, but always remember to be cautious and investigate the copyright status of the work used. When trying to avoid copyright infringement revert to these three elements: fair use, face-to-face instruction, and virtual instruction.
Take a look at the Gaye v. Williams case, it shows a prime example of copyright infringement. Virginia native Pharrell Williams, is a well known rapper, producer, and songwriter who made hit songs such as, Drop it like it’s hot by Snoop Dogg and Happy by Pharrell Williams. In this case, Williams was accused and proven guilty of copyright infringement against singer, songwriter, and producer Marvin Gaye. Williams did not ask for fair use or give any credit to Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to give it up’. As a result, he had to pay $7.4 million to Marvin Gaye’s family. According to the author Andre Sirois, the technique of sampling has been most popular and controversial in the musical style of rap or hip-hop.
Today’s technology has heavily impacted all areas of music. For example, Hip-hop originated from the analog manipulation of vinyl records, thus providing more control over music. The format and equipment has evolved from turntables playing vinyl records to computers playing mp3 files. However, both can still be either manipulated or sampled. Producers can easily find and download pirated music on any device, but that is another issue we will touch on in the future. It is very easy to loop and make small changes to a melody that someone else created. As long as the original work can be recognized in the final performance then it is considered as infringement. Provided the consequences of not giving credit to the original creator should successfully help understand and avoid copyright infringement.