Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Timbaland vs. A Finnish Person

"Do It" is Nelly Furtado's latest single. It was produced by Timbaland, a largely excellent producer. There have been claims that he based the song around a stolen sample from an obscure Finnish demoscene composer. I'm pretty convinced these claims are true.

There has been a video on YouTube for flippin' ages that exposes Timbaland as a thief, but it only came back into my mind once I started hearing "Do It" twice a day on the radio. I absolutely can't believe that with the internet being quite a big deal nowadays, this hasn't been discussed on a larger platform, that no court case has ensued, and that mainstream radio either has no idea of the scale of fraud being committed here, or knows and does not care.

With this song being a single (albeit a fairly lesser one from Nelly Furtado's album), it's likely that worldwide it'll sell about a million copies, making a couple of million dollars split between Evil Stores, Evil Distributors, Evil Record Companies, Evil Managers, and last of all Timbaland (and Nelly Furtado). At it stands, none of that money will go to Janne Suni, arguably the main composer of the song.

On Timbaland's Wikipedia page, it says this on the subject: Timbaland, while admitting the sampling, has called the issue "ridiculous" but also says he is "in legal discussions" and is therefore unable to comment. It might be libellous to say this, but I think the only "ridiculous" thing is that Timbaland has been caught red-handed, but won't admit to defrauding the public for the sake of his reputation. (Timbaland's full rather... inarticulate reply is just here. Part of his defence is that he just didn't know whether it was public domain. Again, I reiterate, he is a famous producer with a huge company behind him. If it isn't clearly public domain material, don't use it!!)

My opinion is this: Firstly, I am dead against copyright laws, and think that sampling is great fun and should be free. Early rap used samples in fresh and exciting ways, and this potential still exists. BUT..... basically it is down to Record Labels Always Wanting More Money that sampling is now mainly illegal without permission (read payment), with the exception of copyleft material. So when a huge and very famous rich producer steals from a near unknown composer and doesn't even MENTION him, I don't think it can be considered Fair Use in any way, and I think in court he would be found guilty, and I think he (and more importantly Universal, basically the biggest music company around with a twenty-five per cent market share) should suffer the consequences. The song isn't even that good!

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