Copyright Criminals

Copyright Criminals examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, including the related debates over artistic expression, copyright law, and (of course) money.

This documentary traces the rise of hip-hop from the urban streets of New York to its current status as a multibillion-dollar industry. For more than thirty years, innovative hip-hop performers and producers have been re-using portions of previously recorded music in new, otherwise original compositions. When lawyers and record companies got involved, what was once referred to as a “borrowed melody” became a “copyright infringement.”

The film showcases many of hip-hop music’s founding figures like Public Enemy, De La Soul, and Digital Underground–while also featuring emerging hip-hop artists from record labels Definitive Jux, Rhymesayers, Ninja Tune, and more. It also provides an in-depth look at artists who have been sampled, such as Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown’s drummer and the world’s most sampled musician), as well as commentary by another highly sampled musician, funk legend George Clinton.

Produced by Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod.


Director, Producer, Editor and Cinematographer
Benjamin Franzen

Executive Producer, Writer and Music Consultant
Kembrew McLeod

Additional Cinematography
Ross Gabriel Šebek

Additional Editing
Sarah Franzen
Video Rahim

Motion Graphics and Effects Editor
Dave Willadsen

Audiovisual Remix Sequences
Eclectic Method

Graphic Design
John Freyer

Camera Operators
Hugh Braselton
Bill Burton
Nate George
Matthew Hurley
Alex Orr
Jay Raabe
Michael Schneider
Steve Shepard

Sound and Music Mix
Don McCollister

Music Soundtrack

Additional Music
DJ Food Stamp
Mr. Len
DJ Spooky
Clyde Stubblefield

Legal Services
Law Offices of Alan Korn

Copyright Consultant
Peter Jaszi

Annie Lin
Brooke Wentz

Finishing Consultant
Alvaro Fernandez

John Petersen

Production Consultants
Sasha Waters Freyer
Sarah Price

Production Support
Lane Wooder

Meredith Baxter
Daniel Pelt
Aimee Rydarowski

Research and Production Assistants
Mike Mario Albrecht
Puja Birla
Evelyn Bottando
Susan Ericsson
Gina Giotta
Paige Nelson
Kristen Norwood
Kim Robinson
Rachel Avon Whidden
Nathan Wilson
Zane Umsted
Jennifer Zoller

Special Thanks
Biz 3
Chris Brenneman
Bob Burns
Center for Social Media
Jeff Chang
Creative Commons
Michael Dalton
Charles DeLeon Franzen
Definitve Jux Records
Future of Music Coalition
Kennan Gudjonsson
Jason Gross
Krispin Harker
Liz Lazzari
Thom Monahan
Lynne Nugent
Nina Nastasia
Pitchfork Media
Prelinger Archives
Public Enemy
Ashley Simpson
Jeremy Smith
John Sorensen
David Terry
Jenny Toomey
Amaechi Uzolgwe
Clay Walker
Alex Weis

Funding provided by
Ford Foundation
University of Iowa
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer