Monday, April 18, 2016

Jazz, Blues, "Stairway to Heaven" and the Facts of Life

G O T VWhen students in my graduate class get to the topic of music and copyright, the conversation is fast and passionate, with lots of questions.  We all recognize that some musical forms are built upon improvisation and borrowing from other works.  Both jazz and blues are like this, and we see this in rock and hip hop, too.

We can each list a song that sounds like something else.  We wonder if permission was sought or needed, and then follow with curiosity when a lawsuit is filed.  One of the latest to catch our eyes is the lawsuit against Led Zeppelin over the song "Stairway to Heaven." Among the articles on this is this one entitled "Led Zeppelin are not thieves: 'Stairway to Heaven' fight rests on a nearly impossible copyright standard." 

At various points during the semester, I mention Lawrence (Larry) Lessig and the talks he has given on our remix culture.  With every music lawsuit, he words come to mind.   If remix is again a fact of life, how can the law be changed to support it?  I don't have an answer, but I do think that it is a question that needs to be tackled.  Soon.


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