Flip Flop Flying

The Beachles

with 2 comments

Copyright is a funny thing, huh? Funny peculiar not funny ha-ha. This fellow, the wonderfully-named Clayton Counts, is in a spot of bother with EMI for creating and putting online a ‘mash-up’ of songs from Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Of course, you may have already read what Boing Boing said about the matter, and I agree; EMI are only making themselves into a cartoon evil corporation by their actions.

But it’s interesting that copyright law is so rigid and allows for no grey areas. Clayton’s mix (which is wonderfully odd, by the way; and I assume if EMI get the IP addresses of those who downloaded it, they’ll be coming after me for that, if not for this mix I made of all the songs from Pet Sounds playing at once) will, of course, not affect sales of either album. I’d imagine that 99% of the people that will buy either of those albums this year will have never even heard of Clayton’s mixes.

All this has reminded me that I’m potentially playing a dangerous game with the mix tape mp3s I’ve been putting online. For me, they exist in that grey area, as I see them as 1) a way to introduce you some cracking music that you might not have heard and may care to investigate further, 2) remind you that, “oooh, that Stereolab song was great, must pick up a copy of that album,” or 3) give you a chance to hear Here I Go Again by Whitesnake again. I have no moral dilemma about number three on that list, as I sometimes download that type of song illegally because I’m not taking away a sale: if I couldn’t download it I’d forget about it, not go straight to the shops looking for Whitesnake albums.

Of course, this grey area doesn’t exist. It’s all theft in the music industry’s eyes. But, hypocritically, I also like to protect my work, and have in the past sued people who’ve stolen Minipops and used them in adverts without my permission or payment. I see a difference there – they’ve directly affected my income, therefore I feel justified in seeking money from them. EMI no doubt feel the same way about their products.

I have no conclusion. I don’t know the answer. The grey area will continue to exist in my head, and I’ll continue to justify my hypocrisy. But, whatever, Clayton Counts needs our support to embarrass EMI into backing down, otherwise he’s financially fucked. He makes good music, too, you should give it a listen.

Written by Craig

September 11th, 2006 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to 'The Beachles'

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  1. IANAL but I think mixtapes and mashups are a far cry from someone making a profit from your work without your permission. The hypocrisy only extends as far as the law does, and I see no problem or hypocrisy in taking a stance that there are certain activities that shouldn’t be illegal.

    That said, an attempt to redraft the law along the lines of “aw come on, it’s just a mixtape I made for a couple of mates” would either be too weak & fail to uphold genuinely damaging breaches of copyright, or be so complicated that it’d be too costly to ever argue. Probably both.

    For such laws, the industry just needs to exercise greater restraint. Generally the record companies seem to focus on no-profit breaches of copyright if the perpetrator releases something that quickly gains a high profile (the main crime that Clayton committed, I feel), using them as an example of the firm’s moral & legal clout. Any admissions that they don’t care about minor infringements could be seen as implicit permission, thereby weaking their legal stance when some profiteer really does deserve to be sued. Moreover, legal action seems to be more a kneejerk reaction borne of fear of change. Once industry starts catching up to their predominantly internet-savvy/open-source/GNU-happy audience, I’m hoping they’ll become a little more pragmatic, possibly even develop a new copyright model. If they don’t, I think even the artists from which they make their money will leave them behind.

    ANYWAY, my point is that not all laws are there to be upheld to the letter, and while officially you’re breaking the law, you’re also acting as a conduit for change. Just go with your conscience, I reckon.


    12 Sep 06 at 02:39

  2. > “It’s all theft in the music industry’s eyes.”

    Indeed. Even though the actual legal issue is copyright infringement. It really annoys me when they try and pretend it’s the same as stealing. It’s not. If you steal a tangible item, the person who owned it can no longer use it. That sucks.

    If you copy an intangible item, the owner can still use it. They just might not be able to make money from it as much as before – and, as you say, “might”, because if the person who stole it wouldn’t have bought it anyway, it’s little difference.


    12 Sep 06 at 21:57

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