Re: An appropriated "Hmmmmm"

Subject: Re: An appropriated "Hmmmmm"
From: Eric Somers (
Date: Tue May 25 1999 - 15:55:51 EDT

At 09:16 PM 5/25/99 +0200, you wrote:
>Philip Thompson wrote :
>>I'm curious as to whether anyone else thinks their may be an analogy between
>>audio sampling and collage in visual art.

"Appropriation" has always been a part of the arts, especially the visual
arts (as Alexandra notes). At the risk of being very cynical I must say I
think the issue was a non-issue until people started making big money with
audio sampling. Those artists who first produced visual collages did not
sell them for any huge sums in their own lifetimes (though some are worth a
fortune now!). There were also sound and radio artists years ago who used
talk from radio and call-in shows as part of sound compositions. When
rappers and techno DJs started getting rich using samples everyone wanted
their cut.

Now everyone talks about "integrity" and being "honest." Well, maybe we
are becoming more sensitive to individual property but it is my maverick
opinion that US society (at least) has placed too great an emphasis on
private property. It is all "own, own own" yet every artist also benefits
from the culture around him/her. Perhaps we should be willing to "give" a
bit back as long as it is clear that we are not giving away whole completed

No, I don't want sometime using 13 minutes of my music as part of a e-a
piece and calling it "theirs" but I truly do think that I have a moral
obligation (if not a legal one) to let someone grab a small fragment of my
work and highly re-contextualize it. I wouldn't dream of going after
someone for a seven second sample from my work looped, say, in a rap tune
(certainly a genre I never write in!!) even if that song became a
multi-million dollar hit.

If I include a one sentence quote from the brilliant Kevin Austin in my
upcoming book do I now owe him royalties? Surely not. If I include a
whole chapter written by Kevin then surely I do.

Now I suppose we'll have people asking about the hypothetical possibility
of using a one sentence chapter. Such people deserve a terrible fate, that
of being a lawyer or judge. :>)

- Eric

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