Thursday, August 21, 2008


Regardless of legality

Are Sampling and Intrepretation synonymus?

If so how?


RebeccaZ said...

Could you define Sampling a little bit more?


Devilvet said...

Probably not without giving away my stance too much...

But smapling would be something along the lines of duplicating the creative expression of another too enough of a degree that the original work is both recognizible and that the newer work would not be capable without the other piece.

Put plainly when Vanilla Ice took samples from David Bowie...added one note to the end and called it his own...was that a form of intrepretation that would be protected by US courts. By protected meaning that Ice would be free of the burden of worrying about financial consequence related to copyright infringement.

Also, i will add that sampling is "borrowing" from a work that is not yet within the public domain.

And, I will also add that I am more interested in how this relates to theatre and playwriting

For exmaple...I am a huge fan of Skriker and have created and published a piece of work that takes the monologues and recombines them with elements from Edgar Allen Poe as well as some of my own writing. Also in this example I did not obtain Churchill's permission. I am not making alot of money, however a check for an undisclosed amount has been sent to me, by the publisher. When asked about the legality or ethical stance of this action I either cite my first amendment rights or refer to famous instance of plagirism through out the ages.

That is what I'm thinking about when I sue the word "sampling"

For more on this visit issac's parabasis or tony's blog

Paul Rekk said...

So scratch "regardless of legality", then?

Only half being snarky; those three words completely change the question.

Devilvet said...


Personally I believe that regardless of whether or not sampling is intrepretive or merely dressed up minicry...I have no doubt that regarding its legality when the work is a) not in the public domain as defined by copyright law b) Not sanctioned by the original author

However, I do want to get a notion of other peoples thought as to whether this sampling, this sort of unsanctioned by the artist appropriation is intrepretive and therefore from some sort of position ethical from our societial circumstance (not shakespeares)...however if you want to strike the first three words and respond...I promise not to delete or appropriate and publish your response as my own.

RLewis said...

Bob, I say not synonymus.

But I've been reading the discussion on Parabasis and just wanted to toss one at you that confuses me. Check out this show....

Decades ago, I saw the Wooster Group piece that this one based on, and although its clear that this one uses completely different words, it still seems like such a rip-off of the original. Based on recent theatrical intelectual property cases, LeCompte would have more than a basis for a lawsuit, though I doubt she'd want to. Just thought I'd add it to the mix.

RebeccaZ said...

Hmmm ... per your example, I don't think they're synonomous and one is just blatant plagiarism. I feel the same way when someone uses a copyrighted piece of music in a play without getting permission first, which is done all the time. I think you would need to follow the copyright laws even if you're just going to use one line from somebody else's piece.

To me, interpretation is different ... you follow the same lines, have the same characters, etc, but everybody's take on a scene or a play is different. Take Our Town ... Lookingglass's production will probably be a complete 180 from the Hypocrites. There's the common throughline, of course, but ... the ensemble's interpretations will be different.


Devilvet said...

@RZ But some might (not me) argue that by acknowledging the source even if I didnt obtain permission that it can not be plagarism. That even though something was appropriated actual Fraud has not occurred.

Let me rephrase what are the limits of intrepretation? i.e. when does intrepretation cross over into appropriation of intellectual property?

RebeccaZ said...

Shew ... I hadn't seen the 24 comments at Tony's site until just a couple minutes ago. I've always thought sampling was just a way of riding somebody else's coattails. I wasn't familiar with Bowie's riff when I first heard Ice, Ice Baby and, being 12, I attributed it to Vanilla. And then I finally heard Under Pressure for the first time in high school and thought, "Man, that's bullshit." And my stance hasn't changed since. People better pay for the rights of the White Album ... that's why people probably bought the album in the first place and the mashup artists are making a killing on somebody else's work. Prince doesn't even allow YouTube covers of his music. And everybody always thinks Prince is a bitch. No, he's Prince and he doesn't like people making a killing off of his creation ... when he could make the same killing if you just paid him the fee.

Yeah, money changes everything. You better believe Cyndi paid Prince a pretty penny to wail those lyrics. Welcome to the world.

"when does intrepretation cross over into appropriation of intellectual property?"

I think the whole Urinetown debacle is very representative of this question ... and I'll refer to the Hypocrites and Lookingglass again ... David Cromer's show just happened. If the Lookingglass crew had an actor who delivered everything the same way as one of the Hypocrites Emily or George, if there was step by step blocking, if the costumes looked the same, hell, even if a hairstyle was the same ... then it's plagiarism of intellectual property and should be protected under law because it would be quite obvious that they were ripped off.

Unless they have a stanza in their program saying that such situations are purely coincidental as movie scripts, tv, books, etc do to save their asses legally.

It does, indeed, come down to artistic integrity. You can be "inspired" by someone's work without ripping them off.

Tony Adams said...

Interesting that you say not Shakespeare.

Because if copyright had existed in his time, none of his works would be kosher, they all ripped off from his contemporaries.

Granted he did a much better job. But still. . . Our pinnacle of playwriting stole freely, so is that why people have no problem appropriating thoses texts.

Or is it just because he's long dead?

Rz, worth noting as well that blocking (direction period) hairstyles, and most costumes aren't copyrightable, no no intellectual law breaking there.

Paul Rekk said...

Honestly, I'd much rather keep the first three words in. I have no question of the legality of many of these situations, either. That just doesn't hold much weight in the issue as far as I'm concerned.

Sampling and interpretive art are not synonymous, but sampling falls under the heading of interpretive
art. That's my answer for the question as it stands.

The problem is that when I approach this concept -- not just here, but in general -- I truly think of it without regards to legality. That means, as far as I see it, public domain, copyright, financial responsibilities, all of these things are outside factors that have little to do with the art itself.

I have a problem with artists who sample other work and deny the fact that they have sampled, i.e. Vanilla Ice. If the artist is willing to acknowledge the sample, it's all fair use to me.

@RZ --

We're talking The Beatles vs. Danger Mouse (who can't even distribute his album) here. One of these has made a killing a hundred times over. The other is doing just fine, but his funds have come through his other works, not the mash-up. It's David and Goliath, except this time Goliath is the one throwing the stones. This was a labor of love on DM's part, he has no need to make his cash off The Beatles.

Devilvet said...


If your point is that shakespeare was a win.

If your point is that plagarism and fraud have existed in the past and therefore to some degree should be passable in this situation...well (rassberry)

No one is obligated to justify or come to terms with the actions of a writer ruled by a monarch centuries ago in order to defend and insist upon the rights of individuals within this democracy and capital environment.

Why not cite King Solomon's judement of who is true mother of this child...

Why not claim that if society in time of hammurabi didnt need copyright protection than this society should be willing to abdicate such protections.

Devilvet said...


re: not considering legality when dealing with labors od love...

Well, why not justify the stalking of a member of the opposite sex as a labor of love. Perhaps the staukee is the goliath in this equation, have been sated of sexual desire due to the massive amounts of copulation they've experienced whereas the stauker is the david in this equation just trying to successfully get off once in a blue moon?...(OK now that hyperbole)

But seriously...

Just becuase someone is rich doesn't excuse the notion that another steals...regardless of how much they covet what they are stealing.

Labor of Love don't mean diddly

Tony Adams said...

Bond's Lear. How does that fit into the sampling argument? or Zimmermans' Metamorphoses? Should a copy be protected, but not a copy of a copy?

Changing subject, slightly--I've never argued that directors should be free to change words, move scenes etc. . .I never got your take on how that leads to playwrights asserting final authority on casting, director, designers et at.

prod, prod.

Paul Rekk said...

I've said my piece. Every argument that keeps coming back around is one of legal issues, which has already been established as an aspect you hold in much higher regard than myself. If we've got ethical issues with the jury still out, let's talk, but we're just going to keep repeating ourselves on legality.

My DM/Beatles comment was just to counter the ridiculous notion that mash-up artists are "making a killing" off of anyone. Especially The Beatles.

RebeccaZ said...

Tony -

I know they're not copyrightable but feel that they should be, a la The Urinetown Situation. I've had high schools contact me about obtaining a videotape of Insanity of Mary Girard so they could use our blocking. Yes, they're a high school, but if they're doing it that means there's a whole slew of people doing the same thing and the designers/actors/directors etc should be able to copyright their interpretations and designs.

But that's sort of/kind of a whole other topic of discussion.

Devilvet said...


Both Bill's Lear and Ovid's Metamorphoses...hmmmm...Maybe those aren't in the public domain?

Once the work passes into Public Domain it is no longer copy protected, but perhaps you mean to ask does Mary Zimmerman have a right to copyright her version of Metamorphoses? The answer is Yes...and if I do a version that "borrows" heavily from her text which is published and staged in a big knee high swimming pool...someone has the right to call foul.

Would MZ have intellectual right to staging pieces derived from greek classics in swimming pools? No...but if I do the same why "sampling" her text...I'm am asking for trouble.

Sorry, If I let your question about playwrights asserting authority on casting, director,etc slip

But quickly...if a playwright asserts said authority in a is up to the producing agency if they want to deal with it... they dont however have the right to go ahead and produce the play and ignor said assertions if they contractual agreed to them (i.e. staging Endgame in a subway) no matter how brilliant the concept.

However, unless the playwright designed the set, I cant understand how they'd have intellectual property rights to it.

If someone where doing a play of mine...I cant see how i'd insist on rights to who gets to design the show...However, the designer doesnt get to say... change the setting in MEatlcoker from a gymnasium to the 2008 democratic convention because they think the metaphor is apt... errrrr....somebody just made a booboo and the playwright gets to call foul...i dont know if that means pulling the production or removal of the set or what have you...but who wants that sort of headache...

Devilvet said...


In this instance I can not seperate legality and ethicality(sp?)...

I am not dispassionately attempting to clarify the letter of the law.

To be clear, if dangermouse created the grey album without permission or compesatory measures to the doesnt matter how much money is made or lost by DM, or how much money has been horded thus far by Paul and Yoko or how brilliant his mash up is in my view wholly unethical even if the letter of the law were to be amended and the recording suddenly made "legal"...until said beatles work passes into public domain it is not at all ethically sound discretion of DM to distribute work of other artists as his own.

So the jury aint out

Tony Adams said...

RZ- Design is copyrightable. Costumes (ie clothing) that would be worn on the street is not.

DV-I'm not necessarily asking a hypothetical. The Dramatists Guild puts that in their authors bill of rights.

If no words are changed, do you think the writer still should control the production?

That is whats at the heart of many of the arguments--including with the Beckett estate.

I'm not arguing against copyright. Not at all, I do think the extension of it can and has easily get out of hand--such is the Sonny Bono act.

Devilvet said...


If the writer decides that they want to contractually insist on elements of production and risk the loss of having the script produced... if they accept that risk...then yes...they have that right.

Regardless of whether or not we might find the Beckett Estate's intrepretation and licensing of the how work wanting... He gave them that power over his work...and they are entitled to it until the work passes into public domain. At that time, people can do beckett any way they want regardless of the estate...until then, any attempt to do otherwise regardless of the staging's brilliance is both illegal and unethical.

RE: Dramatist Guild... uhhh I'm not a member.

Give me tonight to parse Sonny Bono a bit more clearly...but doesnt it have to do with extending the chronological amount of time to pass before public domain occurs?