Monday, February 6, 2012

Black and White and Grey All Over

The Internet is the driving force that has led to many legal debacles in modern times.  Through the Internet, people now have a free gateway to any information he or she wishes to have.  This free access to information is also what is causing many of the legal issues. 

DJ Danger Mouse created a new album bringing together both Jay Z’s The Black Album and the Beatles’ The White Album and created what he called The Grey Album.  This new album was a mashup that he had created utilizing both Jay Z’s lyrics and the Beatles beats and chords.  What DJ Danger Mouse didn’t know was how his new tracks would quickly go viral and be the cause of a lot of copyright and serious legal issues.
The issues surrounding DJ Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album reflects the problems that major companies and people with power face on a daily basis.  DJ Danger Mouse didn’t even have control over what his album would become as soon as the tracks were put on the internet.  The Internet served as a highway for the tracks to spread like wild fire.  He originally only made 300 copies of his album to give to his friends and family, but as soon as that album hit the Internet, word of mouth led to the album being downloaded by hundreds of thousands of people from all over.  (Here is a link to download The Grey Album for yourself)

The legal issues with this case deal with the fact that DJ Danger Mouse did not seek to get legal rights to use the Beatles tracks in his mashups.  This copyright infringement is what led the EMI to seek legal action.  EMI claimed that DJ Danger Mouse violated a serious copyright law.

The grey area of EMI’s argument, however, is that there is no set price or detailed description within copyright laws explaining how DJ Danger Mouse could have gotten the rights to the samples even if he had tried to go about using the samples legally.  If it is true that copyrights exist for the purpose of protecting an artist's economic and artistic or intellectual interests and property than shouldn’t there be a cost association for people who desire to buy rights to samples of the music or property?

The copyright laws need to reconsidered and reevaluated for clarity.  If these laws do not become thorough and comprehensive than we will continue having these legal battles.  The Internet is a powerful technology that allows for people to use and distribute music among other things whether it is sanctioned or not sanctioned by the industry from which they originate.  This is why copyright laws need to be clearly black or white and we need to move them out of the grey area.  

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