The Amen Break was created and performed by a funk-and-soul band, The Winstons, in their song “Amen, Brother” back in the 1960’s.
It’s much more than a drum loop. It symbolises the rich remix and ‘mash-up’ culture we exist in. Participation has seen the break move between many a music genre from funk, soul, gospel and hip-hop to rave, jungle and drum&bass.
The internet provides us with the technologies to borrow, transform, remix, share and distribute music. We are able to use and produce collectively. This creates a new breed of user– the produser. So when does one cross the copyright line?
I’ve discussed the idea of music sampling and copyright issues in a previous post regarding Girltalk. Greg Gillis is the man behind Girltalk. He is a world renowned music creator whose work consists entirely of other artist’s music samples. Taking someone’s work and remixing it into your own obviously evokes some copyright issues.
The Amen Break has been sampled hundreds of times and despite this, the Winstons have never received royalties. And I don’t believe they should. It’s highly doubtful they were the first to compose that beat; they were just the ones that made it mainstream.
Along with strict copyright comes a strain on creativity. Copyright enforcement has the ability to shut down the remix culture. We are operating based on copyright principles that stood well before the monumental existence of the internet. I think it’s time to reassess copyright laws because in this day and age, everything is borrowed.