The Grey Album, Copyrights and the Law


There’s been a lot of hoo-hah going on over the last month about DJ Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album, a remix of Jay Z’s Black Album with the Beatles’ White Album. It’s obviously illegal, but what is most interesting to me is the amount of commentary suggesting it is the most innovative thing to happen to the music business lately, an instant classic, and might even be the album of the year.

The Grey Album is an art project/experiment that uses the full vocal content of Jay-Z’s Black Album recorded over new beats and production made using the Beatles White Album as the sole source material.

Remixes have been becoming a bigger and bigger phenomenon over recent years, being predominantly traded over peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa and sold on Ebay. Jay-Z’s engineer, Young Guru, told MTV.com last month that the rapper released a words-only version of The Black Album so DJs could “remix the hell out of it.” The Beatles music, however, is apparently off-limits.

While it is totally standard practice for musicians to record cover versions of another artist’s songs as long as they pay the artist a standard royalty fee, sampling and remixing are a different matter. As Harvard Law School professor Jonathan Zittrain notes, that smacks of “copyright as a means of control, rather than a means of profit.”

In the American legal tradition, he notes, copyright is seen as a way to make sure innovators get paid for their work, not to keep others from being creative. “So long as there’s money to be made, it’s a negotiation,” he said. “There’s not a lot of excitement for further downstream innovation being blocked. Nobody wants to see that.”


Source: Waxy

Comments (9)

  1. I have no idea what you do with your post, but all the characters are HUGE in SharpReader!

  2. Sorry Dennis! I have no idea either. It looks fine in Intravnews.

  3. Matt Hawley says:

    I totally agree with Dennis… they’re HUGE in NewsGator.

  4. Matt Hawley says:

    I just viewed the source of the message — you have a H1 tag surrounding your posts: <H1 style="MARGIN: auto 0cm">

  5. senkwe says:

    By the way, I just stumbled on the fact (today) that Jay-Z’s record label, Rocafella records, http://www.rocafella.com, runs on ASP.NET 🙂 Fo shizzle my nizzle 😀

  6. Scott says:

    They’re huge in Bloglines too. Interesting. Ah, every line is wrapped with a H1 tag. Did you compose this in MS Word?

    Well you know who owns the rights to the Beatles songs right? Michael Jackson. He probably needs all the money he can get for his defense. So really all the people who think this is wrong should show up at his hearing with signs reading "Let it BE" and "We WANT a revolution". 😉

    (I don’t remember if those two songs are actually on the White Album or not)

  7. As far as I know, Michael owns some of the publishing rights, not the rights on the recorded material, so he isn’t a player in this story. EMI (I think) owns the rights to both the White Album and the Black Album.

    I have to agree with most of the hyperbole surrounding this remix project. An instant classic? Absolutely.

    I don’t agree with anything the DJ says about rights, freedom, creativity, etc, though.

  8. Cameron Reilly says:

    sorry about the font issues folks. I did write it in Word. I’ve done that before though – why did it cause problems this time? Anyway, I’ve tried to fix it up. Is this any better?