Assuming Girl Talk could a) figure out who owns the copyrights, and b) get all the permissions necessary, there's another set of hurdles: the cost of licensing these samples. Each negotiation – and there would need to be at least 600 in his case – takes time, and prices can escalate very quickly, especially for samples of well-known artists or songs. (And these are exactly the types of tunes Girl Talk sampled on Feed the Animals.)
The sample license clearance process is primarily a set of private negotiations. Even though the process can be clumsy and inefficient, it ensures that the copyright owner and publisher can both set the price for the sample, and receive money for the license. It also means the original creator can share in the success of the new recordings that contains his/her original work. Indeed, in some cases, sample licenses have created an additional revenue stream for original recording artists, some of whose careers peaked decades ago.
In addition, if using a pre-recorded sample is cheaper than hiring flesh-and-bone musicians to play on the new recording, it could negatively impact the hiring and development of professional musicians.
But for the person who wants to clear a sample, the cost of licensing is extremely unpredictable and time consuming. The price can be based on such intangibles as an artist’s street credibility (on both sides of the transaction), existing negotiating history between publishers and managers and whether a sample will reinvigorate the back catalog of the sampled artist. In some cases the cost is simply untenable, with the copyright owner of the sample asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars per sample, or for percentages of sales royalties.
Given the cumulative effect of multiple expensive samples, one can see why the sample-laden albums like the Beastie Boy's Paul's Boutique or Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions couldn't be made today. It's likely that even if Girl Talk had tried to clear the hundreds of samples he used, the time necessary and licensing fees would have sunk the project.
as a sample-based musician, this is something i know all too well. my mash smarter not harder EP samples 58 different songs, which would make clearing all the samples similarly impossible—and that's just an EP. i don't even know where most of the samples on wack cylinders came from, so even tracking down the copyright owners for that one would be impossible. ¶