"Can you own a sound?" Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod ask in their 2009 documentary Copyright Criminals, tracing the history, art, and law of sampling from the dawn of hip-hop to the late 00s.
Interviewing Chuck D, De La Soul, Pete Rock, Saul Williams among other rap stars, many of whom have been sued for copyright infringement, the filmmakers position sampling in a long lineage of reappropriation that's always marked cultural evolution, and copyright enforcement as benefitting the suits at the expense of musicians.
But they also give time to ubiquitously sampled "Funky Drummer" Clyde Stubblefield and George Clinton on the side of compensating creators of the source material.
Copyright Criminals screens Saturday 1/15 at 1 p.m. as part of Chicago Public Radio's 3rd Annual Winter Block Party for Chicago’s Hip-Hop Arts at the Chicago Urban Art Society, 2229 S. Halsted Ave. $5, WBEZ members $3.