As you can see from the photo above the world of the sample can be a long and winding one. Ethan Hein created a step-by-step explanation of how Alan Lomax is credited as a co-author on a Jay-Z song, even though Lomax didn’t write anything. Lomax just had a passion for folk songs and went around the lands collecting them, documenting them and recording them. But thanks to copyright law all this means that Jay-Zed must pay.
..Hein points out:
The copyright maze is no obstacle to Jay-Z — he has the money, lawyers and connections to clear whatever he wants. But what about up-and-coming or unheard-of artists? What if they want to use samples?
Should the most vital art form of our time be the exclusive province of forty-year-old multimillionaires? And grateful as I am to Alan Lomax for recording and disseminating so much great folk music, I remain baffled as to why he was allowed to copyright it. Our creative heritage deserves better stewardship than our current laws provide.
Honestly, I think there’s a strong argument that Lomax shouldn’t be in this chain at all. He possibly could have held the copyright on the sound recording (though, even there, there’s a question of whether or not the singer’s have a stronger claim), but not the composition. And as soon as we get to the Animals version (just one step removed) we’re no longer dealing with the original sound recording, but just the composition, over which Lomax has no legitimate claim. The fact that the claim stuck and has carried on down through this insane chain really is quite amazing and a testament to just how screwed up the world of clearing samples has become today. (More from Hein. Via @TechDirt)