imageGame Boy musician nitro2k01 has taken on the controversy over Crystal Castles, the band that just joined the long line of artists recently appropriating sounds from the 8-bit musical underground.

Get ready, CSIs: nitro2k01 uses spectral graphs to try to demonstrate the Crystal Castles song "Love and Caring" is also ripped off, with beats borrowed from Covox’s "Sunday."

Crystal Castles and Chip Music Copyright Infringements [Gameboy Genius]

Crystal Castles responds to earlier allegations via the 8-bit collective forum. Representative Andy writes:

…songs with Lo-Bat samples were left off the CC album because we didn’t have the sample clearance. Many songs were left off the CD because we needed more time to clear the samples. We are hoping to have the songs on a future release (maybe a rarities/demos/remixes compilation) and would love to clear this with Lo-Bat.

Of course, this is not the way to go about things — and it’s a mistake artists make too often.

You’ll want to get clearance for a sample before you record a song, let alone before you post it to MySpace as Crystal Castles did. I’m also a bit suspicious of the way the band is conducting themselves in general (and again, this is all too common). When the band appropriated an image for album covers and t-shirts from artist Trevor Brown, they claimed then, too, that they hoped the artist would come forward. That’s either naive (it’s not the artist’s job to do that), or a way of intentionally trying to manipulate the artist into accepting the terms they want for licensing.

Further evidence that the band just wants to play stupid so they can do whatever they want: they’ve in fact strung along the artist when it comes to fees. (Check out Trevor Brown’s response on his blog.) So it seems the plan is this: use something, hope nobody notices, then since it’s "already out there", play cheapskates with them on fees.

Let me explain:

  • It’s not legal. We can debate ethics all day, as the nitro2k01 story does, as have comments on CDM’s previous story. But here’s the simple version: it’s only legal if it’s explicitly cleared with the copyright owner, or you follow licensing terms (as in Creative Commons licenses).
  • You will get found out. In the days of the Web, there’s a very short gap between the time when you use something and the owner finds out. This has even happened on CDM a couple of times; I try to be very careful, but once recently an image that hadn’t been cleared or attributed properly by one of our writers had to be corrected.
  • You have alternatives. Part of the reason this debate is so silly is that there are plenty of ways of sampling — made easier by Creative Commons licensing — and other simple remedies, like making your own stuff or hiring techs and artists.

Oh, yeah, and then there’s the fact that Crystal Castles uses a logo that’s identical to Chanel’s (scroll down in Trevor’s post) says a lot.

Again, I don’t mean to single out Crystal Castles. The problem is, there’s too much of this in general. Artists are obligated to follow the law, and moreover, we have a better creative community when people behave ethically and respect each other’s work. So, I will vigorously defend the right of artists to watchdog these situations. And the problem is obviously not any one artist — whether Timbaland or Crystal Castles. (Hey, I don’t want to hear any anti-Canadian sentiments, either. Jeez. Canada is freaking awesome, so relax.)