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INDEPENDENT LENS: Copyright Criminals

Airs Sunday, January 24, 2010 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Credit: Benjamin Franzen

Above: This Long Island hip-hop group, De La Soul, helped set a high bar for sampling artistry with their debut album "3 Feet High and Rising," released in 1989.

Computers, software and even cell phones have radically altered our relationship to mass culture and technology, providing consumers with the tools to become producers, or “remixers,” of their own media. But long before everyday people began posting their video mash-ups on the Web, hip-hop musicians perfected the art of audio montage through a sport they called “sampling.”

"Copyright Criminals," a documentary by Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod, examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, including the ongoing debates about artistic expression, copyright law and (of course) money.

How do you make a film called "Copyright Criminals" without becoming one? Very carefully, say filmmakers Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod. In this online interview, they discuss the complexities of making a film about sampling using unauthorized samples, having long dinners with potential interview subjects and incorporating the collage and remix aesthetic into the film itself. You can read more about sampling and fair use online.

This clip features Clyde Stubblefield, James Brown's drummer. "They say I'm the world's number one sampledest drummer. I haven't got a penny for it yet though." "Copyright Criminals" examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, including the related debates over artistic expression, copyright law, and (of course) money.

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