KLF Claims Long-Lasting Copyright Claim to Block Documentary | The KLF

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When the KLF released their debut album, they were using so many unauthorized samples of copyrighted music that ABBA threatened legal action, forcing the duo to withdraw the record from sale and get rid of the records. unsold copies from 1987: What the Fuck is Going On? in the North Sea.

Three decades later, the couple – AKA the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, or more simply Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty – find themselves on the other side of an increasingly tense copyright battle over who should be allowed to use their music.

It turns out that the KLF music publisher spent a year trying to block the release of an unauthorized documentary about the group on the grounds that the filmmakers are not licensed to use KLF songs.

“The irony is that they used really large, un-erased samples in all of their early tracks,” said Chris Atkins, the Who Killed the KLF? director.

His film covers the duo’s creation of No.1 singles in the late 80s and early 90s, their decision to quit the music industry and burn a million pounds, and their entry into the world. of art with the K.

Atkins and his production team insist they can use tracks from KLF tracks such as 3am Eternal and What Time Is Love? without the express approval of the group. This is because there is a defense in copyright laws for using a work without payment or permission if it is used for the purpose of criticism. Exceptionally, Atkins says his film meets this threshold because it uses archival audio recordings of Drummond and Cauty criticizing their own work.

Representatives of the KLF – a name which, among other suggestions, was supposed to represent the Kopyright Liberation Front – strongly disagree with this interpretation of the law.

The Guardian has learned that lawyers for Drummond and the KLF have told filmmakers that they take any offense “extremely seriously”. They said they were ready to “take all measures” to protect these rights – and “reserve the right to take legal action”.

A spokesperson for KLF’s music editors, Warner Chappell, explained why they tried to block the documentary’s premiere at a Texas film festival last month. “We always stand up for the value of the music of our songwriters,” they said. “For-profit feature documentaries that make heavy use of an artist’s music are not covered by the fair use exception to copyright law, which is why we have taken steps in this case. “

After keeping their promise to suspend the KLF for 23 years after burning £ 1million in cash on the Scottish island of Jura, the duo briefly reunited in Liverpool in 2017 to lead a parade of fans across the city behind an ice cream truck. . The three-day reunion event concluded with a performance led by Jarvis Cocker of Justified and Ancient and the announcement of their entry into the funeral sector with the goal of building a pyramid of human ashes in Toxteth. Earlier this year, new versions of their earlier catalog – with many samples removed – were uploaded to streaming services.

Drummond did not respond to a request for comment on whether he supported the lawsuit. But Cauty, who has exhibited shipping containers in recent years featuring elaborate displays of tiny figurines, told an interviewer in 2016 he was not happy with Atkins’ plans for a documentary. “We don’t want to do it – it’s like an archaeological dig in the past,” he said. “We’re doing other things that we think are a lot more interesting.”

Atkins insisted he made his film as a longtime KLF fan and that the young audiences who saw him in Austin were in awe of the story. “The goal is to present their genius to a generation that doesn’t know they exist,” he said. “You watch this movie and you think Bill and Jimmy are amazing.”

The director had previously directed the film Starsuckers on the British tabloid industry before writing a book on being sent to prison for tax evasion. He is convinced that the KLF movie – made in collaboration with James Corden’s production company Fulwell 73 – will eventually be released with the music intact.

Atkins said: “This is the definitive tale of the greatest musical and artistic story of the 20th century that has never really been told, because the two protagonists will not speak about it.”


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