The Amen Break, creativity and copyright [video]

Tony Hallett

Tony Hallett

Managing Director

March 20, 2012 1:04 pm

We wanted to post this video because in part because it’s a fun insight (if you’re interested in hip hop, dance or a lot of other music) but also, more appropriately for these pages, because it makes us think about issues around copyright and creativity.


The above video – really more of an extended audio thought-piece – is about the Amen Break, a six-second drum loop from a song in the late 1960s by a group called the Winstons.

You’ll have heard it. It’s in a lot of contemporary music, TV commercials – lord knows where. By the late 1980s, after the sampler was well and truly a part of many artists’ make-up, the likes of Mantronix and NWA (Straight Outta Compton is a strong memory) were using it.

Where it gets really interesting is when Nate Harrison explains how another outfit, which in 2002 put out a CD of various samples, then copyrighted the Amen Break, over 30 years after the Winstons first published it (as part of a song, Amen Brother).

As the piece points out, there’s a fine line between not protecting your work and a society allowing things to be nailed down so hard that future creativity is stunted or even punished.

There’s more about this most famous of samples over on Wikipedia.

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