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February 25, 2004

Adventures in Journalism: Hip Hop Nation

Downloaded a copy of the Grey Album yet?

More than 300 Web sites and blogs staged a 24-hour online protest yesterday over a record company's efforts to stop them from offering downloadable copies of "The Grey Album." A popular underground collection of music, "The Grey Album" mixes tracks from the Beatles' classic White Album with raps from Jay-Z's latest release, "The Black Album."

The protesters billed the event as "Grey Tuesday," calling it "a day of coordinated civil disobedience," during which more than 150 sites offered the album for download. Recording industry lawyers saw it as 24 hours of mass copyright infringement and sent letters to the Web sites demanding that they not follow through on the protest.

Not that the New York Times, as Reuters did below, actually links to or even mentions any of the sites where the download is available. Not to worry--it's easily found. < a href="http://www.illegal-art.org/index.html">Illegal Art still has .mp3s of the cd available for download.

Don't expect a review--I know nothing about hip-hop in general and what I do know for the most part I dislike. I know less than that about mash-up, though the idea of it intrigues me. I do have some sympathy for Illegal Art's arguments, though.

The laws governing "intellectual property" have grown so expansive in recent years that artists need legal experts to sort them all out. Borrowing from another artwork--as jazz musicians did in the 1930s and Looney Tunes illustrators did in 1940s--will now land you in court. If the current copyright laws had been in effect back in the day, whole genres such as collage, hip hop, and Pop Art might have never have existed.

The irony here couldn't be more stark. Rooted in the U.S. Constitution, copyright was originally intended to facilitate the exchange of ideas but is now being used to stifle it.

EMI should have known better than to release the lawyers--it's like no one at the company remembered what being banned did for "God Save The Queen". They've done more for DJ Danger Mouse's career than a dozen albums could have.

Posted by Bigwig at February 25, 2004 09:42 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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