Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Copyright history

The Beatles (Paul, Ringo and the estates of George and John) are notoriously litigious when it comes to sampling the group's catalogue. It was reported that teams of lawyers sifted over The Chemical Brothers' "Tomorrow Never Knows" sound-a-like "Setting Sun", searching for a note that might have been lifted from the original. Virgin Records had to hire a musicologist to prove that the work was an homage, and did not borrow from the Beatles' recording. A few years later when Dangermouse combined Jay-Z's Black Album with the eponymously titled White Album the project was shut down almost instantly, and had to rely on the web to be heard at all. Original vinyl copies sell on Ebay for upwards of a hundred dollars.

But apparently George's kid is a big fan of the Wu-Tang Clan and has helped the band clear the first ever Beatles sample for their upcoming Album, 8 Diagrams. The track "Gently Weeps" samples from the Harrison penned "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (which was used by Dangermouse on the Grey Album, for the track "What More Can I Say").

However, Michael Snow's 1967 film "Wavelength" contains a substantial portion of the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" and I've never heard of any litigation. This could be that Lennon and Ono were fans of the film and prevented Apple from suing, or that the artworld just isn't worth calling in the lawyers for (has Douglas Gordon ever been sued by the estate of Alfred Hitchcock?).

Incidentally, I heard somewhere that Snow intended to use whatever song happened to be on the radio at the time of the filming, but it was Joan Baez' "Little Drummer Boy" and he couldn't bear to include it.

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