The American artist Laromlab has released an album with chipmusic, with the only problem being that it wasn’t his own music. The music was made by YM Rockerz, more exactly Crazy Q, DMA-SC, Dubmood, and Lotek Style. Yesterday (April fool’s day) Laromlab wrote an apology and the record label are currently withdrawing the release. Read more about it at Dubmood’s blog. See what some demosceners have to say about it here (it’s not pretty). Don’t be too hard on the guy..
Update a few hours later: Seeing Dubmood’s comment, I will elaborate a bit more.
I have just written a text about composers in the demoscene forming a sort of cultural ecology. The music distributed in the Amiga demoscene – mod-files – contained all the notes, instruments, and effects. It was open source – the listener had the same possibilities to study and alter the song, as the composer did. Since the demoscene operated essentially in the fringe of society, they had no judical problems with sampling records, movies, tv, radio, etc. This was made to a wide extent – usually without crediting the source. “Re-mediation” was also common – making bleepy covers of commercial hits or sampling and using tricks to make them fit into a few hundred kilobytes. On the other hand, using samples and music from fellow demoscene composers seems to have been considerred a lot more problematic. If you did this, the collective sanctioning of the demoscene would turn you into a lamer, sort of what happened to Timbaland. The point is: the demoscene, with its origins in the crackerscene, didn’t respect copyright outside of its community but had its own internal way of handling property and sanctioning.
The demoscene has its similarities with hiphop and mashups, because we all sample from external sources without being extremely picky with saying where it came from. (Although it is often essential that the listener recognizes the original, as Navas points out) This is made both in mainstream and underground culture, with the difference that most people can’t afford to pay money to do it legally. Money money money. It’s sometimes really refreshing to listen to music which is neither commercial or anti-capitalistic – just music. Chipmusic is a good example of this, or atleast it was. Now it’s not just possible to make money from chipmusic, but it’s also an argument to value how bad a case of extreme sampling (“stealing”) is, for example with Laromlab, Timbaland and Fitts for Fight.
Personally, I’ve had my (Creative Commons licensed) music used without permission/credit in both commercial (MTV) and public service contexts (Swedish radio and TV). I can get money for this, by reporting to copyright organizations such as IFPI, STIM, or SACEM. What I cannot do, without proper time and money to go to court, is making sure that my music won’t be used like this in the future. Although copyright means you cannot play a song for an audience without crediting the original author, the dominant sanctioning system is aimed at the economic part of copyright, not the attributional. Who cares if a song is played on the radio without credit, as long as the owner gets money?
Auhm, anyway. It’s ofcourse extremely silly to take a song and claim that you made it. I really don’t get that, eventhough I like sampling, remixing, mashups, etc. It’s a normal way of creating artifacts for a very long time, but what makes it difficult now is technology, copyright and individualism. There is nothing wrong with demanding people to give you credit for what you do, but it’s worth thinking about why it’s so important for you.
Maybe the way that demoscene handled intellectual property is getting more applicable again, when getting famous with your music is increasingly hard without it being available online, for everybody. Timbaland has been sampling for a long time, but last year the notorious music magazine Rolling Stone asked “Is Timbaland a thief?“. Could this have been caused by a “nerd army” and “the collective pride of a bunch of geeks and their ongoing war with mainstream media”? (xxlmag) I think it’s justified to fight back Timbaland’s arrogance, but since Laromlab is so obviously regretting what he made and probably fucked up future plans about his music making, maybe this is not the place for tabloid-style deamonizing?