Girl Talk and Copy Right
Kayne West is playing against Michael Jackson. The pair is soon replaced with The Band playing over Radiohead. This isn’t a hypothetical – it’s Girl Talk. Greg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, is a Pittsburgh based mashup artist. Girl Talk, like other mashup artists like him, mixes together short snippets of popular songs, called samples, to create entirely new songs. It is very entertaining. It is also illegal. Girl Talk does not buy licenses from any of the record labels that own the music he samples. If he did, the cost of his latest album, Feed the Animals, would cost somewhere around 4.5 million dollars to produce-- and that is assuming that every single record company would allow their music to be reimagined. There is a war between the powerful companies that hold the copy rights to the material and the remixers who aren’t asking permission to create new music. And we are all casualties. Just by having Girl Talk in my music library, I am also breaking current copy right law.
How did the current state of US copyright get here? Copyright laws were originally put in place to protect but also encourage creativity. As the printing press gained momentum, US congress put into place the first copyright law in 1870 to protect artists from mass copying of their work. That law said that an artist’s work would be protected for fourteen years before entering the public domain. In 1998, congress passed the latest copy right act. This act allows for an artist to protect his or her work for up to 120 years. That means that if I write a song today, my future family (since I will long be dead) could still be making profits on it in the year 2130. When they passed the law, Congress also supplied a reason for increasing copy right protection for another twenty years
“The purpose of the bill is to ensure adequate copyright protection for American works in foreign nations and the continued economic benefits of a healthy surplus balance of trade in the exploitation of copyrighted works.”
Once again, congress attests that copyright laws are still for the artists’ benefit. Unfortunately, the idea that was once created to help protect creativity is now hindering it.