Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted (Opt-Out)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

Second Department


First Advisor

Robert Hislop

Second Advisor

Jeffery Witsoe


hip-hop, copyright, law, court, culture, artistic process, fair use


This project explores the complex, and at times, troubled relationship between copyright law and hip-hop. While many factors, both positive and negative, have come to shape hip-hop as we know it today, there is one force that holds immense power over the nature and culture of hip-hop: copyright law. This project aims to address how copyright law comes to grasp hip-hop, and not only question the effectiveness of the law, but explore potential changes to the law that respect the cultural and artistic integrity of hip-hop.

Viewing the artistic nature of hip-hop shows how the culture heavily relies on the influence of what came before it, borrowing the ideas, sounds, and styles both new and old. Looking back to the era of the Disk Jockey, to the process of sampling in the present, we can see how hip-hop acts in the context of borrowing, sharing, and influencing. In this regard, we see hip-hop as a continuum; something that builds off of what has come before it demanding that it cannot be viewed in isolation.

Copyright law exists not only to protect one's work but to promote the progress of useful and creative arts. The task of balancing these two ideas falls on the shoulders of the courts. Given the nature of hip-hop as a culture in which utilizing the work of others is so prominent, I argue that copyright law, as it pertains to its treatment of hip-hop, should be amended to create an environment where hip-hop can thrive. The notion of fair use provides an interesting context for us to witness how the courts hold the ideas of artistic expression and transformative works in comparison to the notions of ownership and copyrighted works.

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Rights Statement

In Copyright - Educational Use Permitted.