September 15, 2004

Sampling=(Get Off Your Ass and Jam)=Piracy

by Scott Rettberg · , 1:43 am

Bridgeport and Westbound claim to own the musical composition and sound recording copyrights in “Get Off Your Ass and Jam” by George Clinton, Jr. and the Funkadelics. We assume, as did the district court, that plaintiffs would be able to establish ownership in the copyrights they claim. There seems to be no dispute either that “Get Off” was digitally sampled or that the recording “100 Miles” was included on the sound track of I Got the Hook Up. Defendant No Limit Films, in conjunction with Priority Records, released the movie to theaters on May 27, 1998. The movie was apparently also released on VHS, DVD, and cable television. Fatal to Bridgeportís claims of infringement was the Release and Agreement it entered into with two of the original owners of the composition “100 Miles,” Ruthless Attack Muzick (RAM) and Dollarz N Sense Music (DNSM), in December 1998, granting a sample use license to RAM, DNSM, and their licensees. Finding that No Limit Films had previously been granted an oral synchronization license to use the composition “100 Miles” in the sound track of Hook Up, the district court concluded Bridgeportís claims against No Limit Films were barred by the unambiguous terms of the Release and Agreement. Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films LLC, 230 F. Supp.2d 830, 833-38 (M.D. Tenn. 2002). Although Bridgeport does not appeal from this determination, it is relevant to the district courtís later decision to award attorney fees to No Limit Films.

Am I the only one who finds intellectual property rulings to be occasionally absurdly hilarious, like some kind of peculiar aleotory machine poetry? Unfortunately, this sample is from a ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that finds sampling to be piracy, as Lessig details in his blog.