Arkansas PBS > Engage > Pressroom > AETN, Hendrix College host Community Cinema featuring free screening of ‘Copyright Criminals’ Documentary to explore intellectual property rights in music sampling

AETN, Hendrix College host Community Cinema featuring free screening of ‘Copyright Criminals’ Documentary to explore intellectual property rights in music sampling

Posted 05 Nov 2009

Community Cinema, a free monthly screening series engaging communities through film produced by the Independent Television Service (ITVS), features monthly screenings followed by panel discussions with leading organizations, local communities and special guest speakers. The program is designed to help people learn about and get involved in the social issues raised in the documentaries.

Copyright Criminals, a documentary by Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod, examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, including the ongoing debates about artistic expression, copyright law and, of course, money.

For more than 30 years, as hip-hop evolved from the urban streets of New York to its current status as a multibillion-dollar industry, hip-hop performers and producers have been reusing portions of previously recorded music in new, otherwise original compositions. But when lawyers and record companies got involved, what was once referred to as a borrowed melody became a copyright infringement. Through interviews with many of hip-hop musics founding figureslike Public Enemy, De La Soul, Beastie Boys and Digital Undergroundalong with emerging artists such as audiovisual remixers Eclectic Method, Copyright Criminals illuminates both sides of the debate, from traditional musicians who view sampling as pillaging to those who argue that the practice of borrowing is by no means new, nor is it unique to hip-hop or even music: 

Ironically, Copyright Criminals faced its own challenges due to the extensive use of quotations, videos and sound clips from hundreds of different sources. In order to avoid prosecution, producers Franzen and McLeod worked closely with legal experts and would not have been able to produce and distribute without the fair use doctrine, which allows copyrighted works to be used for purposes such as criticism, teaching, research and news reporting.

As Copyright Criminals reveals, computers, mobile phones and other interactive technologies are changing peoples relationship with media, blurring the line between producer and consumer, and radically changing what it means to be creative. As artists find ever more inventive ways to insert old influences into new material, the documentary asks a critical question: Can anyone really own a sound?

The screening will be held in the rotunda of Bailey Library, located on the Hendrix campus at the corner of Washington Avenue and Winfield Street in Conway. Refreshments will be provided, and parking is available in lots adjacent to the library. For more information, call AETN at 800-662-2386, or visit

Following the screening, a community discussion will be held with local musicians, media lawyers and copyright specialists.

Delving into the rights of artistic expression and philosophical debates such as whether one can own a sound, Copyright Criminals premieres on AETN as part of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens on Sunday, Jan. 24, at 11 p.m.

Hendrix, founded in 1876, is a selective, residential, undergraduate liberal arts college emphasizing experiential learning in a demanding yet supportive environment. The college is featured in the 2010 edition of the Princeton Review as one of the countrys best 371 colleges, was identified as the nations top Up and Coming liberal arts college for 2010 by U.S. News and World Report, and is ranked among 44 Best Buy colleges by the 2010 Fiske Guide to Colleges. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit

The Arkansas Educational Television Network ( provides lifelong learning opportunities, improves and enhances Arkansans lives and celebrates the unique culture of Arkansas through its programming and services. AETNs transmitters and numerous cable system connections give it statewide reach.