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15 Info. & Comm. Tech. L. 1 (2006)

handle is hein.journals/infctel15 and id is 1 raw text is: Information & Communications Technology Law,                        Routledge
Vol. 15, No. 1, March 2006                                          Taylor&FrncisGroup
United States Copyright Law and Digital Sampling:
Adding Color to a Grey Area
Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Maine, USA
ABSTRACT This study evaluates the current application of United States copyright law
in music sampling cases and used the Danger Mouse's Grey Album as a case in point.
The following research questions structured the investigation: Are the current applications
of United States copyright law appropriate for digital sampling in an international
intellectual property environment? Is the practice of digital sampling stealing or
recycling? How might the American legislature change copyright law to more clearly
guide musical artists on the use of digital sampling? The research includes a review of
sampling and its history, international and American copyright history, and the applicable
elements of the Copyright Act of 1976, as well as interviews with legal professionals and
musicians. The research suggests that the Copyright Act of 1976 is not adequate to
address the technology and practices of digital sampling musicians, and that Congress
needs to act precisely to amend the law and meet international legal standards.
Throughout the history of the United States, copyright laws have been modified in
order to accommodate new practices, technologies and international expectations.
A recent revising of American copyright law resulted in the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act' and in part protected music from file-sharing on the Internet using
Napster or Kazaa. The international rise in popularity of rap music over the last
decade has begun to test the copyright infringement standards for digital
sampling. The issue received national attention when Brian Burton (aka Danger
Mouse) released his music CD, The Grey Album in 2004. The controversy focused
on the fact that Burton, without permission of the Beatles's copyright holder EMI,
lifted the melodies, drums and rhythms of the Beatles's famous album, The White
Album, and made his own instrumentals with digital equipment. Then he put the
vocals (a cappellas) from Jay Z's new popular album, The Black Album, over the
instrumentals in a technique known as blending-a practice that is popular
among hip-hop DJs/producers (Werde, 2004, p. 32).
EMI reviewed Burton's album and sent a cease-and-desist letter because
the Beatles do not allow sampling of their music. This forced Burton to stop
selling, manufacturing and distributing the album, as well as having to destroy all
copies. In the wake of this, nearly 170 websites sitting on Internet servers located
around the globe decided to offer the album for download on the last Tuesday in
February 2004, coined 'Grey Tuesday'. Accordingly, EMI sent all the websites

ISSN 1360-0834 print/ISSN 1469-8404 online/ 06/ 010001-32 © Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/13600830500514903

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