Grey Tuesday Thoughts

If you haven’t heard, there’s a big copyright protest going on today regarding a certain remix album that juxtaposes the Beatles’ White Album with JayZ’s Black Album – thus making a Grey Album.
I’m pulled in both directions on this one. There’s no question that EMI, the owners of the copyright to the sound recording of the White Album, have the exclusive right to reproduce and make derivative works of that sound recording. Thus DJ Danger Mouse is in violation of those rights. I think the protestors concede this point, but they argue that the law should be changed or that EMI should just ignore the fact that their legal rights are being violated.
In my opinion, we do need legal tools that allow works to be used as building blocks for future works. On the other hand, creative works need to be protected to some degree to provide incentives to the creators. I think the law is too rigid in the sense that it protects works for such a long time period (the social costs of which outweigh the incentives to create). I don’t, however, think that people should be able to take large portions of another’s work when that person clearly intends to enforce their rights in, for example, a famous album that is less than 40 years old.
Copyright law must strike a balance between incentives to create and a rich public domain. Right now, I think the incentives are poorly planned, but I’m not in favor of ending protection entirely. Many protestors today seem upset with the fact that EMI is enforcing their legal rights. I can’t blame EMI for that.
Grey Tuesday / Downhill Battle
Illegal Art (has the album)
Wired Article (a clearly written introduction)