The KLF are trying to block an unauthorised documentary made about them from airing, owing largely to claims that its makers have infringed copyright of their music.
Director Chris Atkins’ film Who Killed the KLF? was shown to audiences at Texas’ Fantastic Fest recently despite objections from the electronic group’s music publisher. Snippets of music from their songs, including ‘3am Eternal’ and ‘What Time Is Love?’, have been used in the documentary under the fair dealing defence.
As The Guardian reports, Atkins and his production team have relied on the copyright law defence that allows for the use of work without payment or permission if it’s being used for the purpose of criticism. Atkins has said that his documentary meets the criteria because he’s using archive audio recordings of The KLF members Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty critiquing their own work.
But, as learnt by The Guardian, lawyers on behalf of Drummond and The KLF have told the filmmakers that they take any alleged infringement “extremely seriously”. They said they are willing to “take any and all measures” to protect such rights and “reserve the right to commence legal proceedings”.
It has emerged that The KLF’s music publisher has been trying to block the documentary for the past year, including its screening at the Texas film festival.
A spokesperson for the KLF’s music publishers, Warner Chappell, said: “We always champion the value of our songwriters’ music. Feature-length documentaries made for profit which make extensive use of an artist’s music are not covered by the fair dealing exception to copyright law, which is why we took action in this case.”
Drummond did not respond to a request from The Guardian for comment on whether he backed the legal action. Cauty, however, told an interviewer in 2016 that he was unhappy about the documentary plans. “We don’t want to do it – it’s like an archaeological dig through the past. We’re doing other things that we think are much more interesting.”
The British electronic duo, who scored a series of global hits in the late ’80s and early ’90s, famously walked away from the music industry in 1992.
The KLF’s departure from the business followed an appearance at that year’s BRIT Awards during which they fired machine gun blanks into the audience and then dumped a dead sheep at the after-show party. With their exit, they discontinued their entire discography.
Their debut album ‘1987: What the Fuck is Going On?’ contained so many unauthorised samples of copyrighted music that ABBA threatened legal action, leading the duo to withdraw the record from sale and dump unsold copies in the North Sea.
“The irony is they used very big uncleared samples in all their early tracks,” Atkins told The Guardian.
Atkins stressed that he was a lifelong fan of the band, with the whole intention of making Who Killed the KLF? to introduce the duo to new audiences, such as those at Texas’ Fantastic Fest.
“The whole point is to introduce their genius to a generation that doesn’t know they exist,” he said. “You watch this film and you think Bill and Jimmy are amazing.”
Atkins added: “It’s the definitive telling of the greatest music and art story of the 20th century that’s never really been told, because the two protagonists won’t talk about it.”
The electronic duo, who returned to action in August 2017 following a notorious 23-year period of silence, are the subject of Paul Duane’s new film.
Drummond and Cauty no longer consider themselves “a pop group”, a press release about the film explained, but rather “new age undertakers” building ‘The People’s Pyramid’, a monument built out of 34,952 bricks forged from the ashes of the dead – and have made November 23 in Liverpool ‘The Toxteth Day of the Dead’.”