Debate around the legality of sampling in music revolves in part around the idea that sampled music might take away revenue from its source material. Besides the obvious practical flaw in this argument–fans of Yeezus almost certainly wouldn’t be listening to the Ponderosa Twins Plus One and Holy Name of Mary Choral Family if it hadn’t ever come out–it also neglects the possibility that sampling might actually boost sales for the source.
A new study suggests that might be the case, at least in the case of Girl Talk. In a paper entitled “Fair Use, Girl Talk, and Digital Sampling: An Empirical Study of Music Sampling’s Effect on the Market for Copyrighted Works,” copyright lawyer Mike Schuster argues that tracks used in that producer’s 2010 sample collage All Day benefited from their inclusion.
It makes sense, especially in Girl Talk’s case. Anecdotally, I definitely knew frat boys and girls in college who were turned on to “International Players Anthem” for its inclusion on Feed the Animals, and it isn’t hard to imagine Girl Talk fans hearing a band like Fugazi for the first time on All Day and wanting to check them out.
“Beyond supporting the premise that digital sampling may constitute fair use, the results of this study raise several notable issues and subjects for future study,” Schuster writes. “One such issue is that courts only address an alleged fair use’s effect on the market for the original as a binary system, wherein the only options are harm to the market (disfavoring fair use) or no harm to the market (favoring fair use).”