Copyright Criminals – Movie Review

Hey guys, great news! Not only do you get my REVIEW of Copyright Criminals but TONIGHT IN THIS VERY POST you can WATCH THE ENTIRE DOCUMENTARY HERE! AWESOME!

If you can’t pick up on typed enthusiasm, yes this is a favorable review. The debut feature from Benjamin Franzen (Copyright Criminals) Copyright Criminals had maintained a buzz for over two years off of the occasional artist mentioning they were interviewed for the project as well as a promising trailer before finally debuting last night on PBS’ “Independent Lens” series. In this viral era, it’s refreshing that a film maintained this mystique while still delivering on every possible level.

Did the sample clear?

It’s a feat in itself that this even aired. The film covers (in a surprisingly unbiased manner) the entire history of sampling from breakbeat party culture through technological advances and ultimately the numerous legal battles that have plagued it for the past two decades. Going into great detail about how strict and expensive the usage and licensing of some samples are, the film’s score slaughters every sacred cow from The Beatles to Michael Jackson to Prince.

And it is glorious.

While the subject has been covered before, other films have often been plagued by a pro-sampling idealist agenda. As much as I love the “all-music-is-free-for-everybody, yay!” sentiment, I don’t need my legal discourse drowning in baby food. Copyright Criminals‘ greatest strength is a willingness to show every side of the argument, unfiltered without vilifying either side. You have the likes of DJ Spooky and George Clinton making their cases for “sampling,” as well as Steve Albini (producer of Nirvana’s “In Utero” and subject of the Wesley Willis song “Steve Albini”) and numerous entertainment lawyers making the argument against. The discussion is compounded by interviewing Clyde Stubblefield, former James Brown drummer and arguably the single most sampled artist in any genre who, due to being a studio musician, hasn’t seen a single dime from even the cleared and legally safest of samples.

Biz clears a sample. Gilbert O'Sullivan clears a room with his awful music.

If you aren’t familiar with the controversy the film will bring you up to speed. If you’re already on one side of the fence, it will still give you something to think about. There’s also plenty of quick cutaways from the likes of Shock G of Digital Underground, Sage Francis and Definitive Jux Records founder El-P who offer poignant insights into their perspectives on what it is they really do. While I would have liked to see the film go further into modern offshoots of sampling, such as Screwing and Chopping, it works as an enjoyable snapshot of one of the most contested hot-button issues of modern music.

We give Copyright Criminals a Five out of Five.

Until next time..Let’s Agree to Agree!

Oh, and here’s the talking picture! (Big ups to the good people at rapradar.com )

BONUS BEAT – Wouldn’t you know it that the DAY after this landmark documentary on sampling airs that one of HIP-HOP’S MOST SOUGHT AFTER SAMPLES SURFACES?

First, listen to:

Then, check out 2:02-2:03 of:

Your mind has been BLOWN!

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4 Comments on “Copyright Criminals – Movie Review”


  1. I haven’t watched any of these videos yet but I can already tell I am going to be interest in this. Thanks for the heads up.


  2. Ok i watched all of the videos and yes my mind has been blown. Coolness man.

  3. Tom Says:

    Thanks for posting this, Chaz. Good watch.

  4. biffwooten Says:

    Great post! Just wrote about Copyright Criminals myself…http://wp.me/pXoV4-90


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