Using audio samples isn't just for rap artists anymore. With the proliferation of loop-based production software (e.g. GarageBand, Acid, Live, et al) more and more songwriters are using sound bites from their favorite songs, movies, or television shows. Unfortunately, many artists suffer from the misconception that using a short sample is permissible as "fair use." And as a mastering engineer, I'm tired of being the one trying to keep them out of trouble down the line.
I was thinking of writing a flyer or whitepaper on the subject before I found out about an existing publication on the topic. Duke Law School's Center for the Study of the Public Domain has undertaken The Arts Project, with the goal of analyzing the effects of intellectual property on cultural production. One result of the project is a 70+ page comic book-that's right, a comic book-that examines these very issues.
The comic follows the life of Akiko, a documentary filmmaker as she struggles through the maze of today's intellectual property law. (The recording industry isn't alone struggling with this issue. Filmmakers have a double bind. They need to deal with sight and sound.) According to the authors, "Bound by Law reaches beyond documentary film to provide a commentary on the most pressing issues facing law, art, property, and an increasingly digital world of remixed culture." (Under Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act, I hereby employ this quote under the auspices of news reporting.) According to me, it does that and more. Bound by Law unravels a tangled legal discourse and serves it in a format that is accessible to a larger audience. The publication is available free online or in print for a nominal fee. We're purchasing a few copies for our studio, and I advise other studio owners to consider doing likewise. ($6 per hard copy or free online; www.law.duke.edu/cspd/comics/)