Catching Up On The Week With Special Guest Copyright Law (Feb. 28 Edition)

A few quick links you may have missed this week and worthy of your time this weekend

I’m always interested in the intersection of music and the law, and considering I spent three years and a fortune for the privilege of receiving a sheet of paper that says “Juris Doctor”, I would hope that there would be at least one thing from my chosen profession that I should enjoy.  So I was excited to read an article discussing yet another lawsuit over sampling, with this one concerning Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids”, and not only because I’m a fan of the song.

Most sampling lawsuits concern an area of copyright law known as “fair use”, which allows certain reproductions that otherwise might be considered infringements in certain limited circumstances, using a balancing test of four factors.  Discussions about fair use are one of the more entertaining parts of copyright law, but unfortunately for most participants there have been several areas that haven’t been settled.  One concept that is still being debated is what is considered “transformative”, which addresses the “purpose and character of the use” component.  Changing the pitch or adding distortion can often be a huge change to a piece of music, so I would be more liberal in my assessment of the transformative question.  In addition, the article mentions a new proposed system that would seek to prevent the hassle of most of these lawsuits by instituting a compulsory licence system.  I’ll definitely spend some time this weekend reading up on that suggestion.

There was recently another development in the area of “fair use”, where an Australian company reached a settlement with a Harvard Law professor who used a clip from Phoenix’s “Lisztomania” for a lesson on on “fair use” posted on YouTube.  It seems to have been a clear attempt at steamrolling potential violators by the label holding the copyright, because the purpose was clearly educational and would be determined to be “fair use” by a court.  The label admitted as much, and thankfully also paid the professor’s legal fees (though I am generally loath to cheer on anything from that particular institution, I am glad for this particular result).

Just your neighborhood studio

Just your neighborhood studio

In a little bit of news, Stereogum has a look at the recording process behind the new Mastodon album.  Glad to see that it’s been smooth sailing for one of the most original bands in the metal scene today.

I know readers of this site are probably a bit Beck’ed out at this point, but if for some reason that’s not the case, SPIN has put online their cover feature from 1994 after the release of Mellow Gold.

I normally wouldn’t link to anything featuring Bill O’Reilly, but if you want to see a clueless argument against rap music, he’s a good source to follow.

Consider this quote:

O’Reilly argued it’s a problem when young black boys idolize “these guys with the hats on backwards” and “terrible rap lyrics” and drug use, and told Jarrett Obama has the power to “reverse the peer pressure.”

If you omit the word “rap”, Bill just provided a description of popular music from the last 50 years.  Congratulations Bill, glad to see you’re putting that Harvard degree to good use.

Finally, I’ve got a little bit of reading of my own to do this weekend.  There’s a Stereogum feature that goes in-depth into the My Morning Jacket “One Big Holiday” festival, and “extensive” doesn’t begin to describe it.  It’s been an open tab for nearly a week now, and considering how much of a fan of the band I am, I still intend to read it.  I’ll probably do so while downloading the shows from the festival.

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