Saturday, February 23, 2008

Plagiarizing Silence

According to its authors, Death by Copyright "is a catalogue of the unintended consequences of overly broad and inflexible copyright laws." This is one of my favorites:

Mike Batt is a British classical composer who put together a group called "The Planets" in 2001. Their first album was called Classical Graffiti. In it Batt included a track with one full minute of silence. He said it was a tongue-in-cheek dig at a John Cage piece called 4 minutes 33 seconds which was similarly a track of total silence, albeit somewhat longer. Batt, credited himself as well as Cage with writing the piece. There would be precious few other ways to identify who the dig was directed at. Unfortunately, Batt soon found himself on the receiving end of a lawsuit from the estate of John Cage, who had died several years previous. In the trustees' view "We do feel that the concept of a silent piece - particularly as it was credited by Mr Batt as being co-written by 'Cage' - is a valuable artistic concept in which there is a copyright."

Batt did eventually come to an out-of-court resolution over this but it did end up costing him a ridiculous undisclosed 6-figure amount.

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