Some Lawyer Caught You Sampling and He Said "No Way!"


AllHipHopNews reports:

Would it be gauche to put the sympathy card and the subpoena in the same envelope?

The Beastie Boys have been hit with lawsuit over four tracks, two on their landmark debut album Licensed To Ill and two from their follow-up, Paul's Boutique.

HipHop/R&B label Tuf America filed the lawsuit against all members of the Beastie Boys on May 3, just one day before member Adam "MCA" Yauch died from cancer on May 4.

Tuf America filed the lawsuit in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The lawsuit claims that the Beasties illegally sampled Trouble Funk's songs "Say What" and "Drop The Bomb."…Tuf America said they did a thorough sound analysis of the tracks in question and concluded that the Beastie Boys illegally incorporated elements of the songs without permission.

Leigh Beadon comments at TechDirt:

Barely legal

When we reported the unfortunate news of Adam "MCA" Yauch's death, we pointed to the EFF's call for an appropriate tribute to the beloved artist: an end to the legal war on sampling. The Beastie Boys produced some of the earliest sample-based music—including their seminal Paul's Boutique, widely seen as one of the best and most influential albums ever—just before the courts started coming down hard on sampling, more or less entirely tossing out the concepts of fair use, transformative work and de minimis copying that should protect samplers in many cases. Most experts agree that, today, an album like Paul's Boutique could never be officially released, since licensing the hundreds of samples used would cost exorbitant amounts—but that hasn't diminished the album's importance, nor has it stopped countless producers from continuing to work with unlicensed samples and release their work as bootlegs. In other words, the law does not match reality: sampling is a valid and vital form of creativity that can and will continue, even though nowadays it's either impossibly pricey or just illegal. What better tribute could there be to one of the fathers of sample-based music than to finally officially legitimize it as the important (and amazing) art form that it is?

Instead, we get the opposite….One would think that the simple fact that a "thorough sound analysis" was necessary means this is clearly a case of transformative work, but unfortunately, as mentioned, the courts have pretty much completely eliminated that defense when it comes to sampling. Moreover, where has Tuf America been this whole time? The Beastie Boys albums came out in 1986 and 1989, and now, a quarter-century later, Tuf America is claiming they deserve a payout? Their legal argument will, by necessity, rely on significant rulings that came out after the albums, which were released under the common sense assumption of the time: that sampling was creative and transformative art that didn't require a license.

Update: Down in the comment thread, Hit & Run regular Gilmore picks two nits with the TechDirt piece. (1) The Beastie Boys didn't "produce" Paul's Boutique; the Dust Brothers did. (2) Despite the time dilation effect caused by looking back from 2012, Paul's Boutique really isn't one of the "earliest" sample-based pieces of music. True on both counts.