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September 17, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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C.R.E.A.M. – Cash Rules Everything Around Me

Patent Problems & the Glory of Jason Derulo

Azealia Banks can be the answer. The 21-year- old New Yorker has launched onto the global hip-hop stage, riding the success of her phenomenal debut ‘212’.

Frighteningly, her ascension was almost halted by legalistic ambiguity. ‘212’s backing track is derived from Lazy Jay’s ‘Float my Boat’. In October 2011 a disgruntled Lazy managed to have ‘212 taken off Youtube. The catapult that would launch Banks into stardom was very suddenly falling apart.

Thankfully, Banks and Lazy settled things amicably, with ‘212’ returning to Youtube and Lazy being credited as a contributor. Nonetheless, ‘sampling’—the use of another artist’s track within a new song—remains controversial. All music has some degree of imitation and extension, but the rise of hip- hop, which is based around sampling, has led to a horde of pissed-off (or greedy) artists wanting credit and money for what they see as theirs. Do they deserve it?

Intellectual property rights—like copyrights, patents and trademarks—exist because people make things for a reason, and that reason needs to be protected. Without patents, companies might not invent cool shit, because they would be afraid that other companies will steal their ideas. Without trademarks, firms might not develop brands, as other firms could steal them too. Intellectual property gives people a reason to invest.

That justification doesn’t make sense when talking about music. The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ takes its iconic string motif from the Rolling Stones’ ‘The Last Time’. The Stones successfully sued The Verve, and ended up with both songwriting credits to the entire song and all of its royalties. This was totally ridiculous. Jagger and Richards would still have written ‘The Last Time’ if they had known it would end up sampled: they weren’t hurt by the new song at all. Indeed, it actually helped them by inspiring interest in their old work. The case wasn’t protecting the incentive to create good music; it was doing the opposite.

Much more mature was the approach taken by Imogen Heap, whose ‘Hide and Seek was bastardised in Jason Derülo’s ‘Whatcha Say’. ‘Hide and Seek’ is a masterpiece, and ‘Whatcha Say’ has less artistic merit than most dog poops. Despite this, Derülo topped the American Billboard charts while ‘Hide and Seek’ has been ghettoed to stoner parties in Newtown flats. Yet Heap approaches sampling with extraordinary goodwill. She tweeted that “Jason Derülo had my permission… Love or hate me for it—Hide and Seek has a life of it’s own. I love it’s madcap journey”. She put aside any artistic angst and was willing to appreciate the power of unrestrained creativity.

Sampling doesn’t hurt anybody, and continues to deliver us extraordinary music. To oppose it is to oppose the creative process. We have no right to stop the creation of wonderful things.

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