Sampling in Other Forms of Media and Industry

From Copyright Criminals collection, lesson plan 4 of 4

(90-120 min + assignments)

Purpose of Lesson: Cutting-edge artists continue to push the boundaries of creativity, often borrowing and referencing the work of artists before them. This lesson takes a look at the fashion industry, contrasting the lack of intellectual property protection for designers with its speed of innovation and creativity. It also takes another look at the music industry, this time at artists who are taking sampling into the future with their innovations. Students will research artists who are predominantly taking works of the past and creating something new.


Students will:

  • Consider perspectives for how the creative process moves forward.
  • Investigate the role of artistic appropriation in the fashion industry.
  • Find out how musicians are currently using sampling, as well as the direction(s) sampling could be taking now.
  • Research an artist in any medium whose works are clearly referential.


Stating and supporting opinions in class discussions and in writing; analytical reading and viewing; note taking; interpreting information and drawing conclusions; critical thinking; identifying cause and effect; identifying relationships and patterns; creating various forms of media

A note to teachers: This lesson should follow the previous lessons as it assumes prior knowledge about sampling and copyright law.


  • Computers with Internet. LCD projector or DVD player
  • Copyright Criminals Discussion Guide
  • Copyright Criminals Film Module 4 “Sampling in Other Forms of Media and Industry”
  • Whiteboard/markers, or chalkboard/chalk
  • Teacher Handout A: Assignment Rubric
  • Student Handout A: Module 4 Note Taking Guide
  • Student Handout B: Quotes

Recommended National Standards

Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning Standards
Standard 3. Understands the sources, purposes, and functions of law, and the importance of the rule of law forthe protection of individual rights and the common good

The Consortium of National Arts Education Associations
Music: Grades 9-12
Standard 8: Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts

National Council for Teachers of English
Standard 1: Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
Standard 7: Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
Standard 8: Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information, and to create and communicate knowledge.

International Society for Technology in Education
Standard 1. Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
Standard 3. Research and information fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.

Curricula Writer

David Maduli is an independent educational consultant who has contributed many curriculum guides and conducted various workshops for PBS programs. He has a master’s in teaching and curriculum from Harvard Graduate School of Education and continues to work as a veteran Bay Area public school language arts and social studies teacher. He is also a DJ and a writer.

Previewing Activity:

  1. Introduction: Have students copy and write quick responses to this quote from the film: That’s how society moves forward. It doesn’t just invent new things. It evolves through taking old things and changing them. —Tom Silverman

    • I think Silverman means…
    • Some examples of advances in society that came out of people making something “new” from something “old” include…
    • I agree/disagree with Silverman because…

    Call on students to share their responses and discuss opinions.

  2. Another Perspective: The Fashion Industry

    Explain that, unlike the music industry, the fashion industry has flourished without copyright protection on designs. Post and read this passage from the article “Control of creativity: Fashion’s secret” from the Christian Science Monitor.

    Through fashion we have a ringside seat on the ecology of creativity in a world of networked communication. Ideas arise, evolve through collaboration, gain currency through exposure, mutate in new directions, and diffuse through imitation. The constant borrowing, repurposing, and transformation of prior work are as integral to creativity in music and film as they are to fashion.

    Divide the class into five groups and explain that each group will read and discuss different (but related) articles and then report back to the class. Distribute the previously mentioned article as well as the following:

    College, and even high-school classes could also read “The Piracy Paradox: Innovation and Intellectual Property in the Fashion Industry” by law professors Kal Raustiala and Christopher Jon Sprigman from the Virginia Law Review.

    Have groups read, take notes, and discuss the following guide questions.

    • Why has the fashion industry been commercially viable even sans copyright protection for designers?
    • How does borrowing and copying help the creative process in fashion design?
    • What might happen if laws such the 2006 proposed Design Piracy Prohibition Act were to be passed?

    Direct groups to choose a spokesperson to report to the class. Then pose this final question and discuss all together:

    • Could the fashion industry’s model be viable for the music industry, in terms of the sampling and borrowing of sounds and musical ideas?
  3. Provide Background Information on Copyright Criminals: Briefly introduce the film Copyright Criminals. Note that the film module will focus on artists who are at the forefront of digital technology and sampling, such as audio/visual mashup artists Eclectic Method.

    Viewing the Film:

  4. Viewing the Film Module: Instruct students to take notes on Student Handout A: Module 4 Note Taking Guide as they view the Copyright Criminals Film Module, making note of the artists who are “carrying the torch” for the future of sampling and music production.

    Reflecting on the Film:

  5. Review and Discuss: Debrief the module and notes by discussing together as a class. Have students review the Student Handout B: Quotes before the discussion. Use the following guide questions:

    • How did the filmmakers use sampling and remixing in the film sequences? Do you think it falls under fair use?Discuss the artistic aspect of putting those montage scenes together.
    • Are the examples of Warhol, Disney, Shakespeare, and jazz and blues musicians all similar in terms of appropriating something and building from it, or are there differences? What about compared to music sampling? Explain.
    • Danger Mouse was asked to “cease and desist” by The Beatles’ record label, and his Grey Album was stopped, but ultimately it became a viral phenomenon. Could there have been a way for the music industry to make it a viable recording beyond just a copyright infringement case?
    • What do you think of Eclectic Method’s live showcase? How is their video performance similar or different from listening to a DJ mix and scratch?
    • Do you think the music industry will catch up and eventually crack down on artists such as Eclectic Method?
    • Do you think there is an economically viable solution for allowing Eclectic Method to legally pursue their art, even recording and releasing it to the public?
    • What long-term effects do you foresee in a two-class system wherein a few super-producers have the resources to legally sample, while other producers have to refrain from sampling or become underground “outlaw” samplers?
    • What does Chang mean when he says, “We live in a remix culture?” Do you agree or disagree?
  6. Disney and the Future of Copyright Law: Have students read this 2008 Los Angeles Times article “Whose Mouse Is It Anyway?” The article explores the copyright fight over Disney’s famous icon. Discuss opinions on both sides and predictions of what may happen in the future with copyright laws.

  7. Assignment - Research Project: Have students find and research an artist in any medium (visual art, music, film, dance, literature, fashion, cooking, technology, and eco/recycled art) who is focused on borrowing, collaging, revisioning, and reworking art and ideas that have been used before into something new. Have them research the artist’s intentions, techniques, audience, economic viability, and other aspects of their career (interviews with the artist would be especially useful). Have them create a web page, blog, podcast, PowerPoint, or other form of audio/visual and/or web-based presentation.


    Use Teacher Handout A: Assignment Rubric to assess groups’ media productions. Students should receive the rubric in advance to guide their work.

  1. English/language arts teachers can explore the issue of plagiarism in literature and writing. Use articles such as “The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism” from Harper’s Magazine and “Author, 17, Says It’s ‘Mixing’ Not Plagiarism” from The New York Times as a jumping-off point. It would also be useful to investigate such mashup literature as the 2009 best seller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. An [article from The Guardian( apr/09/austen-zombie-pride-prejudice) discusses the book’s popularity and an excerpt is published on the Oprah Magazine website.

  2. Research specific trends in fashion (such as sagging, skinny jeans, vintage sports jerseys, etc.). Investigate the origins of the trends in other eras of fashion; how, and why it came to be a trend again; and the designers at the forefront of developing or re-introducing that particular design. Find examples from advertisements, magazines, etc.

  3. Take five copyrighted images (characters, logos, copyrighted phrases, etc.) from a magazine and piece the images together in a way that creates new meaning. They can cut, paste, illustrate, and design them into a work of art. Critique the works and discuss.

  4. Research specifically how “sampling” or borrowing ideas occurs in the technology world. For example, students can look at how Microsoft sampled many elements of Apple’s operating system to create Windows. How is sampling treated in this industry as compared to the fashion world and the music industry?

  5. Research plagiarism policies at various education institutions. What to they deem plagiarism? How is a case of plagiarism disciplined? Compare and get perspectives from teachers and professors as well.

  • Film module:
    Sampling in Other Forms of Media and Industry
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