Copyright Criminals

DIRECTED BY - Benjamin Franzen

Copyright Criminals examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, including the related debates over artistic expression, copyright law, and (of course) money.

This documentary traces the rise of hip-hop from the urban streets of New York to its current status as a multibillion-dollar industry. For more than thirty years, innovative hip-hop performers and producers have been re-using portions of previously recorded music in new, otherwise original compositions. When lawyers and record companies got involved, what was once referred to as a "borrowed melody" became a "copyright infringement."




Film Info

RUNTIME - 54 minutes

RATING - Not Rated

YEAR - 2009

FORMAT - DVD Region All

COUNTRY - United States

LANGUAGE - English



Trailer, Extended Interviews with: Chuck D, De La Soul & Clyde Stubblefield, Music Player Featuring 15+ Songs by: EL-P & RJD2, Fair Use Explained, 4 Shorts by the Center for Social Media

Chuck D Himself
De La Soul Himself
George Clinton Himself
DJ Q-Bert Himself
Clyde Stubblefield Himself
Mix Master Mike Himself
Steve Albini Himself
El-P Himself


Benjamin Franzen


Benjamin Franzen


Benjamin Franzen

Executive Producer

Kembrew McLeod

Additional Editing

Sarah Franzen

Additional Editing

Video Rahim



"Producers Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod craft a compelling and insightful documentary illuminating both sides of a hotly debated issue: Should the original artists get paid when someone samples their work? Are current copyright laws out of step with our mashed-up, high-tech culture?"

-USA Today

"Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod's exceptionally smart and energetic documentary lays out the complexities of sampling--artistic and political, legal and philosophical. Comprised of split screens, overlapping and overlaid sounds, an assemblage of images and noise, the movie effectively stages its argument even as it makes it."

Customer Reviews


0 of 0 people found this review useful

starstarstarhalf a starBecause Stravinsky Said It

written by brad on May 17th, 2011read all my reviews

this review is from: Copyright Criminals (ON DEMAND)

This is the most comprehensive and precise visual record about the ongoing argument over the "borrowing" of audio records. Is there such thing as the "art of sampling"? Is a turntable even an "instrument"? To legal authorities, these questions are unimportant. The re-use of previously recorded sounds is legally consequential though, and this film gives valuable arguments for why this should or should NOT be. As a music fanatic, this film gives further insight into not just the history of sampling but also the legal functions behind this controversial topic. Franzen uses his talents (along with visual and audio mixing by Eclectic Method) to create both a visually and auditorially engaging piece. An important work to be placed in the archive along with Clyde Stubblefield.

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0 of 0 people found this review useful

starstarstarhalf a starThou Shall Sort Of Steal

written by sal on Apr 21st, 2011read all my reviews

this review is from: Copyright Criminals (ON DEMAND)

Thoroughly fascinating and consistently entertaining, Benjamin Franzen's "Copyright Criminals" is a strong argument for both sides of music sampling. The director's skillful merging of talking heads from media professors and entertainment lawyers to DJs, hip-hop stars and musicians, creates a sampling in itself that for just under an hour, shows the viewer the ups and downs of this wildly popular artform. Benjamin Franzen's "Copyright Criminals" is essential.

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