Call a Congressperson–to thank them!

While it might not seem as obvious or as egregious as legislation to curb social networking in libraries, digital copyright has drastic and long-term consequences for our ability to serve teens in the future with dynamic collections of digital media formats. If the Copyright Royalty Board’s recent royalty rate hike is any further prediction of where government is headed, we might have a long hard battle ahead to remain relevant as a lending institution (as far as music is concerned, anyway).

However, it seems that in a recent legislative session, Congressperson Mike Doyle (PA) spoke up in defense of fair use with the following address to Congress:

Mr. Chairman, I want to tell you a story of a local guy done good. His name is Greg Gillis and by day he is a biomedical engineer in Pittsburgh. At night, he DJs under the name Girl Talk. His latest mash-up record made the top 2006 albums list from Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Spin Magazine amongst others. His shtick as the Chicago Tribune wrote about him is “based on the notion that some sampling of copyrighted material, especially when manipulated and recontextualized into a new art form is legit and deserves to be heard.”

In one example, Mr. Chairman, he blended Elton John, Notorious B-I-G, and Destiny’s Child all in the span of 30 seconds. And, while the legal indie-music download site eMusic.com took his stuff down due to possible copyright violation, he’s now flying all over the world to open concerts and remix for artists like Beck.

The same cannot be said for Atlanta-based, hop-hop, mix-tape king DJ Drama. Mix-tapes, actually made on CDs, are sold at Best Buys and local record shops across the country and they are seen as crucial in making or breaking new acts in hip-hop. But even though artists on major labels are paying DJ Drama to get their next mixed-tape, the major record labels are leading raids and sending people like him to jail.

I hope that everyone involved will take a step back and ask themselves if mash-ups and mixtapes are really different or if it’s the same as Paul McCartney admitting that he nicked the Chuck Berry bass-riff and used it on the Beatle’s hit “I Saw Her Standing There.”

Maybe it is. And, maybe Drama violated some clear bright lines. Or, maybe mixtapes are a powerful tool. And, maybe mash-ups are transformative new art that expands the consumers experience and doesn’t compete with what an artist has made available on iTunes or at the CD store. And, I don’t think Sir Paul asked for permission to borrow that bass line, but every time I listen to that song, I’m a little better off for him having done so.

Until our questions about the future of music get answered, we first have to look at the future of radio…

These sorts of discussions will inevitably impact libraries’ abilities in terms of digital music programming and collections. Please send Congressperson Doyle an e-mail in support. You can also e-mail your congressperson in support of bringing these conversations to light as legislation that will extend fair use for digital music media.

About Joseph Wilk

I'm a teen library assistant with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Main location. Here, I'm the graphic novel and music librarian in addition to running anime, music, LGBTQ, incarcerated youth, and video programming. I'm happy to serve YALSA as a blogger, member of the Teen Tech Week committee, and as chair of the Music Interest Group. Otherwise, you can find me in da club.
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