Crate Kings » Music Conferences and Events » How Girl Talk Avoids Sampling & Copyright Lawsuits

How Girl Talk Avoids Sampling & Copyright Lawsuits

July 5, 2010

Alex Kreit, Nancy Prager, Andre Smith, and DJ Spooky discuss the curious case of how Girl Talk has successfully utilized over 300 uncleared samples and somehow managed to avoid being sued by the copyright holders. A really interesting discussion for anyone involved in the creation of sample based music.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Boombapster July 6, 2010 at 1:41 am

Girl Talk gets away with it (fair use) for a bit more obvious reasons than DJ Spooky and the Copyright Criminals creator wants to let on. It’s interesting about how the owners of I’m assuming the mechanical rights to “We Want The Funk” just flat out refused to respond to any request for clearances yet are probing Kevin Nottingham for any possible copyright infringement. It’s simple greed and distrust for the whole lot of sample users, who are essentially consumers, who give these copyright owners all reason for existence in my honest opinion. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

BB$. Copyright. Criminal. I. Am.

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woowee July 6, 2010 at 3:57 am

I think I can answer this…

He gets away with it cause NO ONE KNOWS WHO HE IS! He’s on NO ONE’s RADAR! Personally, all I know about Girl Talk is has been on every doc that talks about sampling. C’Mon son you know you’ve never heard a Girl Talk song in your life. You probably don’t even know what he looks like.

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Breezy August 10, 2010 at 1:05 am

Actually, GirlTalk is REALLY well known, maybe just not to you. White folks and hipsters go apeshit over his mixes. His mixcd’s are sold in all of the huge retail chains(which amazes me that he hasn’t been sued yet), and he’s constantly playing huge music festivals…

According to WikiPedia:
“Feed the Animals” was number four on Time’s Top 10 Albums of 2008. Rolling Stone gave the album four stars and ranked the album #24 on their Top 50 albums of 2008. Blender magazine rated it the second-best recording/album of 2008,[citation needed] and NPR listeners rated it the 16th best album of the year.”

I was put on to his stuff by a friend of mine in Chicago, but wasn’t impressed at all with what he was doing. He was doing stuff that blend-tape dj‘s have been doing for years… and he was mixing things in the wrong key, etc… not very musical to me. One thing I don’t appreciate about his fans is that they are quick to say he invented the “mash-up”, even though dj’s have been remixing and “mashing up” music since day 1.

That being said… There’s definitely a double standard going on with him and the fact that he hasn’t been sued. Didn’t Spinbad get in trouble with the RIAA back in the day for his “Rock The Casbah” 80′s mix? Just saying…

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Boombapster July 6, 2010 at 9:21 am

The only thing you’ve answered for me is how long it would take for some clueless kid to answer my comment with stupidity & impunity. 136 minutes. Thanks, son. He’s on no one’s radar? Good answer…

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woowee July 6, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Really I wasn’t talking to you or replying to you. Sorry if I offended the sole Girl Talk fan out there. hahaha

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Mike November 16, 2010 at 11:39 am

Are you serious? Did you not just read that this guy was Time’s Top 10 Albums of 2008 AND #24 on their Top 50 albums of 2008 for Rolling Stone? Or did you miss that?

Sorry this guy isn’t in FUBU Magazine or the Hoodrat Gazette, dumbass

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Magilakutti: The DJ July 6, 2010 at 1:18 pm

They are watching him… They are just waiting on him to cake up a lil bit more…

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Nick Watts July 6, 2010 at 3:32 pm

It Takes Money to Take Money…that’s why “Puffy has to Pay”.

If you’re not making enough money for them to justify spending money on a lawyer, and then profit from it…

Then You’re considered “Fair Use”…or helping progress our culture.

But once you stack enough dough…then you must share you Cake!

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems!…that’s why I like being broke, cause I know what my friends are around for! =D

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domperi July 9, 2010 at 5:13 am

you like being broke? lol

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ClearBlue July 6, 2010 at 4:52 pm

I hope we can all agree that girl talk is F%#$ing garbage. And where in this video does it say how he avoids copyright laws? That dude should be sued straight up.

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Femi @ Work July 6, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Interesting discussion, but I didn’t really hear anything about how Girl Talk has avoided law suits over his use of copyrighted material. I’d hazard a guess that it has something to do with whether or not copyright owners are actually aware that he has used their work, and how much they think they can get from him.

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Michael July 6, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I think ur right.

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Matt E July 6, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Girl Talk was like 1 little tiny reference in the panel – anyways, that Benjamin guy sitting next to Spooky said has always got me about the Clinton footage VS the use of the music – why can you use public domain MOVIES, or even get footage cleared easier, but the copyright laws for music are so strict? it’s never made sense to me why you can use ANY AND ALL footage/sounds from Night Of The Living Dead, but sampling some obscure record that nobody cares about holds the possibility of getting sued?

it’s always cool to hear DJ Spooky talk cause he gets waaay out there – we live in a media cloud – dig it

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Femi @ Work July 6, 2010 at 10:49 pm

> why can you use public domain MOVIES, or even get footage cleared
> easier, but the copyright laws for music are so strict

I’m going to take the discussion into an area even I feel uncomfortable with, but I get the impression that with regards to music, the strictness with which copyright is governed also has to do with WHO is doing the sampling.

The law is not simply rules written down on books, but a set of people who interpret those rules, and they bring their own biases and prejudices into their interpretations.

In my opinion, when the landmark Biz Markie sampling case went to trial, the judge in the case basically said “oh hell no” to idea of some black guy making money by “ripping off” a more well respected artist, and it was all downhill from there.

Race can’t explain everything, but with regards to hip-hop, I’m sure it’s part of the story.

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juiceboxjackson July 6, 2010 at 10:59 pm

I wish I knew more about that specific case and similar rulings to truly make an educated argument but I must say that the skeptic in me has to agree to some extent with your suspicions. It’s pretty amazing the number of ways that the U.S. has seen institutionalized racism and I’d bet that this case is no different.

Then again, I also believe it comes down to money and if certain record labels want to pursue certain artists like Girl Talk then all they have to do is supply the bread and get it done…Girl Talk would just have to be making enough money to justify such expense.

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silas aka simon July 7, 2010 at 9:46 am

your complelty right is is all about race white people can sample whatever they want and never have to pay for it but black people have to pay.

this whole thing is crazy people have to pay to use other people property what is this ? ? ? I like to work for free doesnt everybody ?

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Femi @ Work July 7, 2010 at 11:05 am

No, it’s not as simple as white people can do it for free, but black people have to pay, because everyone has to pay now. However, I suspect that race had something to do with that landmark Biz Markie case that helped to establish a lot of the legal conventions that currently govern sampling, legal conventions that everyone is taking advantage of now.

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DJ Ian Head July 7, 2010 at 12:35 pm

absolutely

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Michael July 8, 2010 at 10:06 am

You guys forget about Pauls Boutique.

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Matt E July 7, 2010 at 11:23 am

all good points – nobody answered my question though

what I want to know is public domain movies VS old ass music that nobody cares about – not that you’ll get caught for sampling some super old, obscure record, but technically it’s against the law (not that it’s ever stopped me) – you can even “sample” old films out out by the government if they are in the public domain data base –

why is there a difference when the copywrites hit a certain point with movies/tv and not with music?

not to plug my own stuff, but how come the video we did for this is completely legal, but if somebody felt like trying to figure out who we sampled we could get told to stop (we have nothing to sue for lol) –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPWepS9Anw0

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vangothahustla July 13, 2010 at 4:44 am

Matt E., when any work enters into the public domain, that information becomes intangible to private ownership and/or which are available for use by members of the public. In layman terms, the intellectual property of the work has expired or rights were never claimed and it enters into public access. The public can do whatever it pleases to continue spreading the information of said work. Thus, George Romero or the studio did not renew rights and now anyone can sell Night of the living Dead including bits and pieces of it. When publishing companies were developed, they consistently renew the intellectual property. There is a lot of music in the public sector, but rarely is it sampled. In regards to Girl Talk, I think the record labels looked at Feed the Animals as having minimal impact to the industry. I think that the labels probably looked at as a big remix record that is basically a lo-key promotional tool for the labels. Girl Talk isn’t well known. He’s known in a lot of party circles and the club circuit, but he’s more low key than anything. Funny, Dj Shadow never is brought up in these conversations. He’s ingenious for not sharing where he gets his samples and he’s even more genius for chopping them up so you’ll never know where they came from.

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DJ NIPS October 23, 2010 at 12:43 am

Listen to all ya’ll haters, WOW. I have been dj‘n since I was born and I think Girl Talk is nice, I got to give my props!

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Delirium Dog June 26, 2011 at 10:03 am

The Night of the Living Dead example is a good one because most of you relatively informed folks appear to have gotten it wrong. In that case, the distributor screwed over the creators (George Romero and his counterparts and Latent Image) and the whole thing was in court for decades. In the meantime, the rights ownership for the movie was in dispute, so folks just thought it was in public domain (maybe because it was in B&W?) and made lots of bootlegs and sold them all over the place. None of that was legal, but nobody had the money to take them to court because the creators were already in court trying to establish basic ownership. Romero et al eventually won, but the publishing company had gone under and could not pay them much for what is widely regarded as one of the greatest horror movies of all time. The unlicensed versions have all dried up, but at this point there is not a lot of money to be made from the movie.

So you can say that’s just another case of a small, indie producer not having the $$ to go after the folks who rip them off. The formula appears to be: rich artist making money from a sample made by another rich artist who has the money to sue is mostly likely to be sued.

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FrankTalkDC June 27, 2011 at 10:11 pm

@vango Your explanation of PD (public domain) was pretty accurate though.
I too suspect race/class and associations have something to do with the hands of approach to GT. Part of me believes that they are scared to lose a case against GT as well. It’s the same reason big labels, with big publishing holdings don’t fight these cases. If they lose, they open themselves up to be subject to a precedent that they set.
The assumption that publishing rights holders are just baiting GT to become a big fish seems inaccurate as well. Wayne Marshall (wayneandwax.com) posted a stat last year that showed the RIAA recouped less than 10% of its legal fees from copyright cases. Not surprising as they are not known for their brilliance.
Lastly, GT is ass and if you’re djing from birth is supposed to be a voucher, then you were born tone deaf.

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