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Why a Canadian Composer’s Controversial 80s Work is Still Ahead of Today's Copyright Laws

Why a Canadian Composer’s Controversial 80s Work is Still Ahead of Today's Copyright Laws

July 18, 2016
National

"...Nearly 30 years ago, Toronto composer John Oswald anticipated these questions around authorship, originality, and copyright that we're still grappling with today, with his controversial work Plunderphonic. "Plunderphonics" is the term he created in a 1985 essay on the subject to describe his technique of sampling or "electro-quoting." The accompanying album of the same title is comprised of songs made entirely of such electro-quotes, which he distributed for free like a Canadian avant-garde precursor to Girl Talk. Despite ensuring his sample sources were properly credited, Oswald's project drew the attention of the recording industry and their lawyers, who served him with numerous cease-and-desist letters. The threat of legal action was very real, as sampling had yet to be tested in court, but the threat his work posed to copyright was even greater, affirming just how integral sampling would become in songwriting practice..."

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Related Composers: John Oswald, R. Murray Schafer