RZA Calls For Hard Limit On Retroactive Copyright Payments
RZA says there should be a limit on how much an artist can recover after parts of their songs were sampled without consent.
After Pharrell and Robin Thicke were sued for $7.3 million the question of how much artists or their estates can recover via a copyright lawsuit has been brought to a forefront.
Recently at SXSW, Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA spoke about the recent verdict as one of the festival’s headlining speakers and says that while artists who inspire should be paid, there should be a limit to how much they make, especially if the money isn’t actually going to the artist.
“Art is something that’s made to inspire the future,” he said during his stay in Austin, according to the Daily Beast. “If you utilize somebody’s artistic expression blatantly, to [the point] where it’s an identifiable thing, then there should be some sort of compensation to the person who inspires you.” Specifically, the Shaolin producer called for a 50% cap for retroactive payments of sampled material.
“Even though I use his portion as an instrument—because the sampler is an instrument—he should not be able to come in and take 100 percent of my song,” he said in reference to an example he gave about appropriating Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” “The most he should get is 50 percent. There should be a cut off. Fifty percent is the most.”
Finally, RZA spoke on his own issues in dealing with copyright infringements. In 2013, he faced a lawsuit and subsequently countersued over an alleged sample he used from the 1970s Japanese exploitation flick Wandering Ginza Butterfly.
“I’ve been in situations where I’ve sampled something and the original copyright holder took 90 percent,” he said in reflection. “That means they ignored all the programming, drumming, keyboard playing I played on top of it, they ignored every lyric, every hook, everything that we built to make it a song. And we wound up selling more copies than the sample version—but yet they took 90 percent of the song.”

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