Sunday, September 26, 2010


So far I have had a lot of fun reading Mcleod's Freedom of Expression: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity. As I've been reading I've been combing through my iTunes and re-listening to Afrika Bambaataa, Grand Master Flash and others. As music fan, I mourn for some of the music that has not been created due to overzealous copyright protection and the exorbitant fees and legal hurdles for clearing samples. As is the case with so much else in the music industry, the game appears to be rigged in favor of large record labels and the few artists fortunate enough be able to pay the licensing fees to clear their samples. Kanye, Rick Ross and others can afford to clear their samples, while the next generation of up and coming DJ's, Emcees and other musicians cannot.

While I'm not the biggest fan of the resultant music, I am big fan of the motivations behind copyright provacateurs such as, Girl Talk. Girl Talk's album Feed the Animals was made entirely from sampled music, I believe some several hundred samples in all, none of which were licensed. Unlike earlier Hip-Hop DJ's, none of his samples are obscure or even altered in any way. However, the resultant sound collages are transformative. Does this make Girl Talk's samples an example of fair use?

The video about the Amen Break was also very educational. I had never heard of the Amen Break before, but once I heard the sample in the video, it was immediately recognizable. The Amen Break is but one small example of the cultural impact of sampling. It is nothing short of stunning to think about the fact that 6 seconds of music gave birth to entire music scenes.

However, the stunting of musical innovation by copyright abuse is a small tragedy in comparison to the research that has not been done because of the hurdles created by patenting genes and other discoveries that have come from genetic research. It makes me angrier to know that a lot of this genetic research is done at publicly funded Universities. Yet one more example of socializing the costs and privatizing the gains. There can be no more clear example of capitalism and privatization run amok than this.

Perhaps the most galling example of patent abuse pointed out by Mcleod was the United States' attempt to protect pharmaceutical companies and their intellectual property by preventing the manufacture and importation of generic antiretrovirals. To think of the millions who died and suffered needlessly of one of the most horrifying diseases we have ever known, all in deference to bottom line of a handful of corporations, is to despair.

As other posters have pointed out I want to see artists, creators, scientists and others credited for their work and rewarded for their labors. I am a realist and I recognize that there have to be financial incentives for a bio-tech firm in order for them to pour millions of dollars into research. On the other hand, I feel that there is something deeply wrong with our current regimes for protecting intellectual property rights.

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