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Music Sampling and Copyright

Written by Harry Jeffries on 02 April 2013

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Brooklyn based producer “Baauer” (AKA Harry Rodrigues) is maybe better known for the creation of the ‘bass heavy minimalist dance track’ Harlem Shake. The worldwide craze, leading to the participation of thousands of people re-creating their own version, soon came back to haunt Baauer as he was contacted by representatives of retired artist  Hector Delgado and Philadelphia MC Jayson Musson both of whom were collaborators on a hit. Delgado was responsible for “Con los terroristas”, a phrase which he sang in his 2006 single Maldades which has been accompanied by Musson’s rap “Do the Harlem Shake!” in a 2001 track by his group Plastic Little.

In the space of a month, this year-old underground club track had shot to number 1 after receiving 103 million YouTube views in a single week. The sudden hysteria was clearly a shock to Baauer, who had failed to license the samples, making him the most recent person in a long list to be caught in the controversial web of the ‘sampling’.

As mentioned, Baauer isn’t the only one. In the 1970s and 80s, sampling was at an all time high with the likes of Del La Soul and the Beastie Boy’s exploiting such technological advances in their albums ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ and ‘Paul’s Boutique’ respectively. It wasn’t unusual for the original artists to not get paid, but that didn’t make it legal. Often they would receive no credit, no mention; it was deemed as a ‘free-for-all’. 

The growing ease of sampling has coincided with the growing difficulty to trace the samples, this is clearly represented by Baauer’s vague description when asked how he came across the line now identified as the voice of Delgado, Baauer stated: “Somewhere off the Internet, I don’t even know where.”

This case is an example of the ignorance that still exists regarding copyright – in particular in the dance community. Both above artists are thought to be in discussions with the Baauer’s record label and Musson has stated they are being ‘cooperative’.

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