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Toward a “New School” Licensing Regime for Digital Sampling

Disclosure, Coding, and Click-Through

By Thomas P. Wolf

Under most circumstances, music writer Johnny Oxbridge would be exhilarated to open his MySpace inbox and find a message from DJ Showtime, a Los Angeles-based producer-rapper whose off-kilter beats—built on some of music’s most obscure sonic scraps—are the object of envy, scrutiny, and emulation by legions of independent hip-hop fans.1 A hip-hop enthusiast with a particular interest in production techniques and digital sampling, Oxbridge was the founder, editor- in-chief, and staff of, a website dedicated to cataloging, analyzing, and discussing the work of the genre’s leading producers. In addition to regular blog entries, Oxbridge’s site featured a wide variety of “sample sets”—compilations of digital versions of the songs sampled by his favorite producers to build their beats. In early March 2008, Oxbridge posted one of his more difficult-to- compile sets, which contained the samples from 2004’s Showbiz. The critically acclaimed product of a collaboration between Showtime and rapper Big Biz, Showbiz was different from many of the other albums Oxbridge had researched before; while the album’s liner notes featured elaborate artwork and extensive lyric sheets, they did not reveal its samples. So, Oxbridge had to start digging, resorting to his own knowledge and hints from his fellow fans to piece together the album’s sources.

In his March 18, 2008 message to Oxbridge, sent shortly after the Showbiz sample set went live, Showtime did not commend his crate-digging disciple for his work; instead, he requested that Oxbridge remove the link to the sample set and cease sharing its accompanying list of samples with readers. As he wrote to Oxbridge, “[P]ages like this on the internet are no help at all to people like Biz, Showtime, and those that work with them.” Oxbridge agreed with Showtime’s case; within a few hours, the link and list disappeared. Shortly thereafter, the Wikipedia page bearing similar information was wiped clean. Order had been restored to the hip-hop blogosphere.

Posted in Notes.

March 28, 2011 Cite: 2011 Stan. Tech. L. Rev. N1