Posted by midiguru on September 1, 2013
Yes, it’s time for a fresh dose of Beam At Alien (at least, for those who are fond of anagrams). These new pieces raise a question that’s partly legal and partly philosophical, or at least ethical. But the question may make more sense if you listen to them first:
The question is, at what point does the composer of a song cease to have the right to control (or collect money for) the use of what is essentially a new piece of music that reimagines the original?
The first piece is called “Norwegian Face,” for reasons that are probably fairly obvious, at least if you’re a musician and over the age of 40. The second is “Yesteryear,” the third (new as of Sept. 30) is “Tripper,” and the fourth (uploaded Oct. 16) is … well, maybe I should continue to be coy about the titles, so I’ll call it “Assistance.” Added Nov. 6, we have “Make It Better” and “Life Goes On,” both of which should be readily recognizable.
These tracks were all done in Reason 7, by the way. Most of them make use of the Rob Papen PredatorRE synth, as well as other third-party Rack Extensions.
Of course, uploading this material for you to listen to is entirely illegal. I would have to fill out all sorts of paperwork to acquire the licenses, if I could get permission at all — and how would I explain to Paul McCartney’s team of lawyers that I’m happy to pay them 50% of the earnings I expect to make, given that the earnings will total $0?
The legal situation is fairly clear, at least in the U.S. The ethical question is somewhat different. Given that I have engaged in a creative endeavor using abstract “found materials,” should a team of lawyers have the right to tell me to cease and desist?
Edit: On thinking further about this, I’ve noticed another facet of the question. Clearly, listeners’ reactions to these pieces will be based in no small part on the familiarity of the melodies. If the music were substantially similar, but original, listeners’ reactions would be different. On that basis, I clearly have an ethical obligation.
But to whom? To Lennon and McCartney, or their heirs and assigns? I’m not sure of that. Seems to me my ethical obligation is to the promotional teams that brought Lennon and McCartney’s creative work to your attention in the first place. It’s the promotional people who created your familiarity with the tunes. So my ethical obligation may be quite different from my legal obligation.
Welcome to the modern world.