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New Documentary Explores Sample-Based Legal Battles in Hip-Hop

The new music documentary ‘Copyright Criminals’ takes a magnified look at samples in hip-hop and the resulting, endless copyright battles. The film, which premieres on Tuesday, Jan. 26, at the Toronto Film Festival, and then part of PBS’ Independent Lens Series, investigates the legitimacy of famous hip-hop copyright disputes. Industry veterans and sample-based pioneers like De La Soul, Chuck D, Pete Rock, Public Enemy and Mix Master Mike lend their knowledge to the debate through in-depth interviews and commentary while the film explores the motivation behind so called “copyfights.”

Filmmakers Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod were able to land some input from James Brown‘s original drummer, Clyde Stubblefield, whose beats have been sampled numerous times. Stubblefield explains that he has never received compensation for his duplicated work. “I didn’t know anything about sampling until people came up and said some other artist is using your drum pattern … So many groups have sampled my stuff,” Stubblefield says. “They say I’m the world’s number one sampled drummer; I haven’t got a penny for it yet though.”

‘Copyright Criminals’ will be available on iTunes and Amazon.com on Jan 26. See the trailer below.

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