The Song: De La Soul “Transmitting Live from Mars” (1989)
The Plaintiff: Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman of The Turtles
The Case: Long Island hip hop group De La Soul’s groundbreaking debut album 3 Feet High and Rising was rightfully lauded at the time of its release for its creative use of sampling, raising the practice to new levels of artistic sophistication. Unfortunately among the many samples that made up the album’s dense sonic gumbo was an unlicensed intro from The Turtles 1969 recording of “You Showed Me.” Former-Turtles Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman slapped the De Las with a $1.7 million lawsuit.
The Judgment: Though settled out of court, the suit was a precedent setting case for the music industry. Henceforth, record labels and lawyers would pay more attention to who was sampling whom and carefully crediting and paying the original artists lest they end up having to settle up in or out of the legal arena.