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Artifacts from an Earlier Time

From Kimbrew McLeod’s Freedom of Expression book on copyright

“Records like It Takes a Nation of Millions and 3 Feet High and Rising,” Public Enemy’s Harry Allen observes, “they’re kind of like artifacts from an earlier time that couldn’t exist today. They’re just financially untenable, unworkable records. We would have to sell them for, I don’t know, a hundred and fifty-nine dollars each just to pay all the royalties from publishers making claims for one hundred percent on your compositions.” You can place the Beastie Boys’ 1989 densely packed Paul’s Boutique in the same category. “Ninetyfive percent of the record was sampled,” says engineer and producer Mario Caldato Jr., who worked on Paul’s Boutique. “They spent over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for sample clearances.”16 A quarter million turned out to be a bargain, because if those licenses were cleared today the album would be far too expensive to release. In an interview on his band’s Web site, Beasties group member Adam Yauch agreed that “the hectic sampling laws are a bit of a deterrent from sampling.”