Copyright Criminals explores the impact of sample based music on the mainstream and gives some history to how and when sampling became both wildly popular and a bluntly illegal.

via EgoTrip: “Packed with a diverse cast, the PBS doc Copyright Criminals explores the hot button issue of sampling, taking a close look at the costly history, the high-profile legal cases (from 3 Feet High and Rising to Biz vs. Gilbert O’ Sullivan to the Danger Mouse The Grey Album stand off), and the impact the practice has had on music, particularly hip-hop. Key figures like Chuck D, the Bomb Squad’s Hank Shocklee (that’s the “Night of the Living Baseheads” track sheet up there, by the way), De La Soul, George Clinton, Shock G, El-P, DJ QBert, Mixmaster Mike and the original funky drummer Clyde Stubblefield are just a few of the artists in the film by Benjamin Franzen & Kembrew McLeod who weigh in from the artist’s point of view, which is balanced with the views of label heads like Tommy Boy’s Tom Silverman, rap scholars Harry Allen and Jeff Chang, and, of course, various lawyers. (Producer Steve Albini, who is opposed to sampling, calls it “extraordinarily lazy” and “cheap and easy.”)

Copyright Criminals covers a lot of ground in just under an hour, touching on outdated copyright laws, the rise of the sample clearance industry, and how sampling has revitalized past artists’ careers. One eye-opening comment the documentary points out is that it is cheaper to cover somebody’s song entirely than to take three seconds of it. (Speaking of sampling, Miho Hatori Cibo Matto saying, “James Brown… the beats are just so fat” is quite sample worthy.)”