End of 2007, Fortis Insurances (a car insurance company) invited me to make a funny video about damaged cars for their online promotion. This project showed me how much the discussion about copyrights had changed since the launch of YouTube.

Challenging copyrights

I have had a lot of problems with copyrights, because sampling plays an important part in my work. In my work I usually sample other people’s work. That has always been a problem for my commercial work and for publishing my work in general (see Trap to skiLL you). Until YouTube!

I asked Fortis what they preferred: giving me a budget to break and damage a lot of cars for the composition, or sample YouTube videos and ignore copyrights. A big insurance company like Fortis is usually very cautious and stays away from a potential controversy, but not in this case: they told me to use anything in YouTube and ignore copyrights.

I decided to challenge the copyright discussion a bit more and not only sample copyrighted videos, but also the song/arrangement. To add more oil to the fire I used videos from other insurance companies. For example, the car driving into the caravan is a sample from a car insurance TV commercial from a competing company.

Fortis was going to promote the video on many platforms. I was curious if anybody would be triggered by the different layers of copyright infringement.

Making the composition

I wanted to keep my artistic process as simple as possible, to emphasize the questions about the copyrights: how can you assess the added value of the remix artist and what is the relationship of the rights of the remix artist to those of the producer of the source material? 

So, first I downloaded many videos about smashing cars and cars in general from YouTube. Speeding cars, car horns, exhausts (‘Uitlaat’ in Dutch), crashing cars, smashing cars, etcetera.

Then, I downloaded the arrangement of ‘Walking on sunshine’, a popular song by Katrina And The Waves.

I loaded the YouTube videos into SenS IV and loaded the arrangement in Logic Pro (music production software). Then I simply pressed play and let the arrangement trigger the YouTube videos. That looked and sounded nice. 90% of my work was already done!

I cleaned up the samples, added some breaks and made the visual arrangement, and that was it. In no time I finished the track.

The track

The video was uploaded in January 2008 and gained many views and enthusiastic reactions quickly. Nobody complained about the copyrights.This showed that it was now possible to earn decent money with sample based art.

The simple artistic process of this track (just take a template and add samples) was one of the motivations to make Senna, my AV instrument for children.

The video on the right shows how SenS IV and Logic Pro were used to create the track.