Monday, March 22, 2004

More on The Grey Album, Mashups, etc.
Jon Healey of the Los Angeles Times had a nice piece in Sunday's calendar section chronicling the whole Grey Album controversy that ensued after EMI tried to shut down Dangermouse's mashup of The Beatles' "The White Album" and Jay-Z's "The Black Album." Obviously this issue has been almots blogged to death at this point (see for a plethora of key links). But I'm highlighting Healey's article as quick and fairly balanced primer on the topic that does some pretty decent contextualization for a newspaper article of this sort; it includes a quick rundown of the history of the legal status of sampling, quotes from a variety of musicians (from Offspring to David Bowie) and legal experts (including Lessig) on both sides of the major divide here. I could imagine this article being nice to toss into a course reader to spark discussion in a relevant class.

EMI's move against Danger Mouse was a spectacular backfire in the war over what's fair when the muse runs afoul of copyright law in the Digital Age. Technology is making it easier than ever to sample and rework recordings, and to the chagrin of entertainment companies and some artists who hold copyrights, the public is showing little sympathy for their efforts to control original works.

Fred E. Goldring, a Beverly Hills-based music-industry lawyer, likened EMI's response to "The Grey Album" to the major labels' earlier mishandling of the Napster file-sharing service. "By creating a controversy and trying to shut it down, they actually attracted more interest in it," Goldring says. "They created their own hell." He adds, "It became probably the most widely downloaded, underground indie record, without radio or TV coverage, ever. I think it's a watershed event."

Unfortunately, the LA Times has locked up all of its calendar articles behind a paid subscribers wall (as opposed to the free registration wall of its regular news articles) so the link may be of little use to you.

When copyright law meets the 'mash-up'


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