Over the past year I’ve been collecting materials, reading, and thinking a lot about the intersection of copyright law and hip hop. Many of the seminal court cases that shape copyright law in music today centered around rap songs. On the flip side, the history of hip hop was forever changed when the art of sampling in music was ruled illegal. The dynamic of this two way exchange involves race, technology, and culture, and is something that is thoroughly under-researched. While some scholarship has been done around the interplay between violent rap lyrics and the law, an ancillary issue that also interests me, the intersection of copyright and hip hop has been largely unexplored, especially considering this area’s impact on the music and video industry as a whole.
With that in mind I am humbly embarking on a research project called The Copyright and Hip Hop Project. This project aims to bring materials from legal scholarship and hip hop history together to form a more comprehensive understanding of how these two areas interact. The initial focus will be on mapping a history of how we have arrived at our current situation, and then will expand to explore potential futures and develop conclusions.
Unlike past reporting on these issues I hope to bring the stories and traditions of hip hop to the forefront to provide better context for legal scholars. I also hope to investigate how other cultural issues surrounding hip hop may have influenced the way copyright cases were viewed and decided.
*I am by no means an expert (yet) on this topic and would love input and feedback from others. Please don’t hesitate to reach me on twitter @lwThinking to educate or correct me.