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What Are the Ethics of Sampling in Alternative Media

July 21, 2009

Even though it’s a different media than audio collage, I think the ongoing debate about Jamba Juice ‘ripping off’ Get Your War On’s ripped-off aesthetic says a lot about the perhaps unspoken ethics of sampling.
For those who need the background: http://www.mnftiu.cc/2009/07/16/no-justice-part-ii-boycott-jamba-juice/

I guess I should clarify myself or rephrase it as a question: What are the ethics of sampling?
To me, it’s not re-using that which has been detourned for a similar purpose.
I do a radio show. Sometimes I simply play mixes of music and sometimes I do media collages not too unlike OTE (hopefully not derivatively so).
When doing a collage mix around a theme (usually current event driven), I strive to find my own content. I will play partial sound-bites of videos, pop songs, commercials, etc, at my discretion or to re-contextualize the clip. If I feel like a song (read, complete) adds to the mix, say by Negativland or perhaps Evolution Control Committee, I will play the entire track to make it clear that it’s a discreet, complete work by someone else. Using a discretionary piece of either of the aforementioned bands seems lazy and/or could be misconstrued as something I’ve ‘created’.
I’m using the above bands as an example, but that’s just my personal take on it.
What’s the connection with the GYWO/Jamba debate?
I think it’s possible that these ad ‘creatives’ think it’s clever to nod towards this popular web comic and maybe think it’s fair game since the creator of GYWO copped his imagery from bad 80’s clip art. So, while it’s not very original, I’m willing to bet that A): the ad men think they are witty and post-modern. B): The Jamba company will hide behind the skirt of artistic appropriation.
It also reminds me of the larger, hipster T-shirt mills ’stealing’ smaller T-shirt creators designs, lock, stock and barrel.

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