Monthly Archives: June 2010

Copyright and mashups

Since hearing NPR’s broadcast on DJ Danger Mouse’s Grey Album back in the 2004, I’ve been interested in exploring the various ways people mashup seemingly unrelated items.  Jay-Z and the Beatles aren’t my first choices for mixing together but Danger Mouse had an ear for timing and looping certain segments to match the tone in Jay-Z’s a cappella lyrics (check out the video below for a sample video).

However, similar to Vanilla Ice’s misstep with taking the hook from Queen, using it in his own song, and intending on profiting from the stolen sound, EMI, the copyright holder for the Beatles, was anything but happy about the Grey Album.  So, yet again, Glee now joins these other copyright violators in the discussion about what is the public perception of copyright today.  While Doctorow raises a valid concerns about the hypocrisy of the Murdock stance of uber-copyright enforcement while the show basically thrives off of reusing or remixing others’ works, such as the Vogue video, I have to take issue with the oversimplification of the scenarios.  For example, Sue’s recording, reenactment/reinterpretation of the Physical video by Olivia Newton John was a personal use item.  Did people get sued for recording dance recitals as well?  The eventual posting to a public site was due to the theft and vengeful attempt to embarrass the video’s creator, not to promote her awesomeness.  So who would be sued? Sue, despite non-infringing intentions? The kids who stole and posted the item?  In a court of law, who would pay the price?  Granted, because I’m pretty well versed in copyright law (research papers on the Google Books Project tend to do that to a person) I understand the subtle differences between copyright and its violation in the context of the show.  So, while I quibble about the actual possibility of copyright infringement in the course of Glee-land, I agree that greater attention and explanation should be part of Glee’s presentation on these topics, so then I don’t have to shock people with news that they CAN ask for help from their friends but CANNOT, in fact, turn in someone else’s assignment and use the thesaurus feature to just change a few words.