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The Verve and The Rolling Stones : Truly Bittersweet
The recently defunct British outfit The Verve sampled an orchestration on their song "Bittersweet Symphony" from The Rolling Stone's "The Last Time". Before the release of the album, The Verve negotiated a licensing agreement with The Rolling Stones to use the sample. In 1997, The Verve's album "Urban Hymns" peaked at number 23 on the Billboard Charts. What ensued was a bitter (and not sweet) legal battle settling with The Verve turning over 100% of the royalties of their recording of the song to the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones argued that The Verve had violated the previous licensing agreement by using too much of the sample in their song. The Verve argued that The Rolling Stones got greedy when the song became successful. Herein lies the issue of moral rights of a samplist.

"The last thing I ever wanted was for my music to be used in a commercial. I'm still sick about it", The Verve's lead singer Richard Ashcroft said in a recent interview. So, that's exactly what Rolling Stones manager Allen Klein did. Capitalizing off the success of the song, Klein licensed The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" to Nike, who proceeded to run a multi-million dollar television campaign using The Verve's song over shots of its sneakers. Klein also used the song to hark Vauxhall automobiles. Additionally, though the song was authored by The Rolling Stones, the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra performed the recording and also filed suit upon the success of the song. To add even more insult to injury, when "Bittersweet Symphony" was nominated for a Grammy this past year, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were named the nominees and not The Verve. What could be more "Bittersweet" than your song reaching the top of the charts and not being able to enjoy a cent of its success?

"It could've been worse," Ashcroft continued. "If we hadn't fought, 'Symphony' could've ended up on a cheeseburger ad and never have been taken seriously again."

Negativland, Coca-Cola, and Fatboy Slim :
One of the most notorious examples of sampling irony is the Negativland/Coca-Cola connection. The California-based band Negativland, copyright infringers of the highest reverence, "illegally" sampled a 1966 religious record and calls their version of the song "Michael Jackson". Samplist Fatboy Slim decides to sample Negativland's song, licenses the Negativland version of the religious sample from SST records, and also calls the song "Michael Jackson." After Fatboy's ensuing popularity, creative advertising executives decide to license Fatboy Slim's song for a Coca-Cola television commercial. Result: Coca-Cola unwittingly engages in copyright infringement. Negativland, whose calling is to debase advertising on all levels, find their music selling soft drinks. Fatboy Slim deposits a huge check in his bank account.

Negativland writes: "The track 'Michael Jackson' from this Fatboy Slim CD ['Better Living Through Chemistry' (Astralwerks) 1998] samples from the Negativland track 'Michael Jackson' from our 1987 release 'Escape From Noise' on SST Records.

"Stupidly, Fatboy Slim went to SST Records to get permission to use this sample. SST charged him $1000, which they are keeping all for themselves, of course. Besides the fact that Fatboy could have kept his $1000 and taken the sample from us without permission and we wouldn't have cared, the Negativland sample he used was itself appropriated by us without permission from a religious flexi-disc originally issued in 1966. [In fact, a Negativland member LITERALLY stole this record from the basement of a church in Concord CA.]

The Letter U and the Numeral 2 :
This is probably one the best sampling stories ever. A small paragraph cannot do it justice so I urge all of you to buy the book on the subject. One of the most notable cases involving Negativland was unfortunately settled out of court by their label at the time. In 1989, the band sampled portions of the band U2's song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and mixed it with angry outtakes of Casey Kasem messing up an introduction of the same song whilst shouting vulgarities at his staff. Negativland and their label were sued by U2 and wanted to use the fair use exception as a defense. Unfortunately the label settled before the band's attorneys could try the defense and, subsequently, the label sued the band, causing their bankruptcy. At the time Negativland appropriated the U2 song, U2 was engaged on their global "Zoo TV" tour. The live performance was developed around the concept of media saturation and featured over fifty different televisions on stage, individually linked into different satellite feeds from around the world. Several years later, in an interview for magazine Mondo 2000, a member of Negativland asked U2's guitarist, The Edge, if fragmentary appropriation should be permitted. The Edge responded that he supports fragmentary appropriation if used in a different context of the original work. The Negativland member then asked The Edge to pay his legal bills to no avail. So, here, a band that says they favor fragmentary appropriation, a band who engages in fragmentary appropriation, sue for fragmentary appropriation and win a large settlement. Singer Bono even once sang in his song "The Fly", "Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief." Apparently, some artists are hypocrites. Negativland Site (where you can read AAAALL about Island records, SST records, and how, though a founding member of the seminal punk band Black Flag, Greg Ginn is still just another corporate piece of shit looking out for number one)

I got these lovely lil articles from SuperSwell(dot)com


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 7th, 2003 02:05 pm (UTC)
re: Michael Jackson
That's hilarious! Escape From Noise oughtta be a mandatory part of every sentient thing's music library.
Aug. 8th, 2003 08:49 am (UTC)
Re: Michael Jackson
I know *I* want a booper and a crystal microphone.
Aug. 7th, 2003 08:58 pm (UTC)
Hm. Nobody mentioned the part where the band's lawyers sue people for copyright infringement, defamation, whatever, without even telling the band? Or were these two cases where the band did know what was going on? Not that it's important, exactly-- either way, it illustrates that copyright is just *too* powerful these days-- but it's kind of nice to keep track of who's scum and who just has lawyers who are scum. Remember the Jane Goodall/Gary Larson thing?
Aug. 8th, 2003 07:59 am (UTC)
Are you talking about The Rolling Stones or U2?

U2 I am a little more willing to believe did not have prior knowledge that Island was going to sue the fuck out of SST and Negativland, manly because they did attempt to get Island to back off the lawsuit, but at that point, Island was proving a point/making an example/ and wouldn't be out the money they'd already spent on lawyers. U2 never publicily denounced the suit brought by their management/label/and publishing company, but especially after the Zoo tv tour found them using a satellite to pull down random bits of audio from whatever transmission happened to be floating past and incorporating those fragments into a live show, they certainly couldn't deny that they were using the exact fragmentary sampling techniques Negativland employs, but WITHOUT the blanket fair use protection of parody, which Negativland was clearly doing with their U2 single.

The Rolling Stones? I don't believe for a second they had no control over the suit. At the time this happened they were launching new tours, raking in brand new millions of dollars and had enough clout that I find it hard to believe they'd just been used in the lawsuit.
I think that in the end, while it would be nice to point out the good and bad guys, that's not the point.
The point is that copyright laws haven't changed in over a hundred years (except for a small ammendment in the 80s that effected almost nothing) and desperately need to be updated just to make *sense* in our digital world.

At the time our current copyright laws were created, there was no such thing as rap, turn tables, digital sampling... there were no 24 hour shopping networks, cell phones, dial tones, laugh tracks or music channels. The fact that we're still talking about copyrights that pertain most to tangibly written media when the vast majority of the media we as humans encounter in a given day comes to us electronically is just.. preposterous.

The problem when it comes to the music industry is that there is a difference between art and commerce... but the people drafting the contracts don't see it that way.

I remember the Jane Goodall/Gary Larson thing. That was obnoxious as all hell and just one more example of where fair use was blatantly ignored.

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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