Monday, September 19, 2011

Fair Use or Copyright Infringement?

In the last ten or fifteen years, the music industry has been forced to adapt to the changing landscape brought about by the internet. Obviously peer-to-peer sharing was the most important test for the music industry with Napster and Kazaa allowing users to illegally obtain music. Time and time again programs like Kazaa and Napster were forced to shut down, but other similar programs kept popping up. At some point in time, the music industry must realize that it is fighting a losing battle.

However, the articles for today described a different phenomenon that the music industry challenged, the creative use of copyrighted works. One of the most famous cases was the mash-up of Jay-Z's The Black Album and The White Album from the Beatles. Danger Mouse was the mixing artist and it was to be determined whether he infringed on copyright by using the Beatles music.

When looking at this from the perspective of the music industry, it's easy to see why it would want to grab on to a share of revenues that would be possible from the resulting music. However, most of these "mix-tape" artists are releasing their work free of charge. So why does the music industry care? I think what it all boils down to is that the music industry and some artists want to keep their own creative expression unaltered. They want to preserve the integrity and the originality of their copyrighted works and have them remain the way the artists intended them.

It's easy to see the reasons why both the mixing artist and the copyright holder believe what they believe, but I would have to align with the mixing artist. Fair use is one of the topics that I have researched in pretty good depth in my previous courses, this is definitely fair use as long as two principles are followed. First, the mixing artist must put his/her own creative spin on the previous work. Additionally, the mixing artist should not be able to make a profit solely off of the music itself. I draw that distinction, because I believe that if people are willing to pay to watch these mixing artists perform, then so be it.

As we have seen in the past few years, the landscape of the music industry is shifting. Many of the most popular rap artists are creating mix-tapes using their peers' instrumental beats.

To read more about the legal implications that surrounded The Grey Album in 2004, click here.

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