Greed in the music industry is a double-edged sword. It simultaneously represents everything we expect music idols to be (excessive, glamorous, rich) and everything we’ve learned is evil about the industry (royalty disputes and copyright infringement).
When TufAmerica Inc. brought suit against Jay Z, Rihanna, and Kanye West for illegally sampling Eddie Bo’s “Hook & Sling” in Jay’s “Run This Town,” it restarted a drama that plays out every day in the music industry. The Daily News says it’s the third time this year that TufAmerica has sued Roc-A-Fella. The parties settled out of court the first two times. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the same thing happen this time around, but it would be a damn shame.
The suit wants to stop “further distribution and exploitation” of the uncleared sample. In most cases, this would be a pretty cut and dry situation—were it not for the fact that it’s damn near impossible to tell just what part of Eddie Bo’s song that Jay sampled. If Robin Thicke is able to drag out a blatant rip of a Marvin Gaye classic, this seems like a misdemeanor in comparison.
But the industry being what it is, Roc-A-Fella will probably pay the pittance and companies like TufAmerica will continue to leech off the accomplishments of others. The issue of copyright infringement is a tricky one, but cases like this show you how broad the notion of creative license can be. Of course it’s wrong to use someone’s music without permission. But the extent of a record label’s control over an artist’s music often leaves the musician out entirely. I wonder how much of the eventual settlement the original songwriter, Eddie Bo, would see were he still alive.