Friday, February 09, 2007

Timbaland rips off a Demoscene artist

I knew this day would come. The new Timbaland/Nelly Furtado song "Do It" uses a song made in 2000 by Finnish demoscene artist "Tempest" (Janne Suni). It's a 4 channel .mod (the ripoff is from a playback using the C64 SID soundchip). The song was hosted on scene.org's servers (the main repository for all everyones demos and tracked music, etc.). As you might expect, no permission or royalties were paid to Tempest.

Just to clarify, we're not talking about some kind of coincidence here. There is no question that this track was used to create the song "Do It".

In an interview, Timbaland tries to downplay it, saying things like "he sampled it from a video game". (This track was not written for a video game- it was actually written for the 2000 demoscene music competition, in which it won 1st place). Regardless, he basically claims he has no legal obligations because it's just like all the other pop artists that sample other music. The difference is that those artists get royalties even when other artists sample their music. Anyway, when you here the song, this is a little more than a "sample". Tempest deserves some compensation.

That being said, this is a very interesting situation. Timbaland has the legal power of Geffen Records behind him, and Tempest has his one lawyer. No one has heard of the Demoscene, so he's going to get screwed, and all of us who have written and submitted tracked music to repositories popular among the Demoscene could be next.

There is such a huge difference between the worlds of pop music and demoscene music. In the pop music model, the music is highly "accessible" (simple assed writing, CD's that sell in retail stores, played everywhere you go, etc.) and the artist generally receives revenues (and fame). In the Demoscene, because of the nature of the way the music is "programmed", the music can be complex and intricate, and often uses sounds not heard in the pop world because of the computer architecture that is used in playback. The music is awesome, but obscure. Most importantly it's always been freely shared. For a big pop artist looking to do something revolutionary with their "sound", this is a wide open door. All you have to do is throw away a little thing called "ethics".

When the pop and demoscene worlds are mixed, everything breaks down. The precedence of this case is really important because there's a fricking ton of incredible music out there in the demoscene that could fall "victim" and be used to make money for someone else, and the outcome of this will decide whether there will be any royalties paid to those artists if their music is used.

To make matters worse, he apparently already used this piece of music to make money in 2005, in a ringtone "written exclusively by Timbaland":



Media
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Here's the entire C64 playback of the original (mp3 format)
http://www.genietervan.com/hoerr/glenn_acidjazz.mp3

Here's the Timbaland/Furtado song:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=8N4ovp90Ea0

The first post in this thread does a good job of explaining what happened:
http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=2274635&perpage=40&pagenumber=1

Timbaland, in an interview answering to the controversy:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTvY3wZrHrQ
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