Earlier this month, blogged about "American Edit," a noncommercial mashup album that combined Green Day's American Idiot with sources as varied as Dr Who.
Now a record company has shut down the American Edit site — I was privately sent a copy of the takedown notice, which was signed by Warner Bros — and internet activists are calling for a reprise of Grey Tuesday when websites all over the Internet mirrored DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album mashup, which was censored off the Internet by EMI.
As I wrote earlier this week, fighting mashups has nothing to do with reducing "piracy." No one who listens to American Edit will shrug her shoulders and say, "Well, heck, now that I've heard that, who needs to buy the Green Day album?" Censoring this art is tantamount to saying, "This music must go because it displeases us."
I presented this view to an EMI representative at the Creative Economies conference in London earlier this autumn and she responded by saying that DJ Danger Mouse had a happy ending, because they subsequently hired him to produce lawful mashups for them (while still maintaining legal censorship of the Grey Album).
Copyright maximalists like to contrast copyright with the old system of patronage, when you could only make art if you could convince the Pope or a duke or a king that your art was worthy. Patronage really distorted creative expression, and copyright did indeed promise to decentralize authority over what kind of art was permitted.
But the EMI rep's answer to the Grey Album is patronage. "You must not make this art unless we permit it." If you work for one of a few big record companies, you can use their legal apparatus to clear the material you want to use in a mashup. Otherwise, your art is illegal and will be censored.
I think patronage is wrong — I agree with the maximalists here. Let's end it. Let's share these mashups, make samples without permission, and continue to produce art without permission from the latter-day aristocracy of creativity.
Only 10 days after its release, the mash-up album American Edit, which pays tribute to the acclaimed Green Day album American Idiot through some of the best mash-up productions of 2005, was shut down reportedly after received a cease & desist order from Green Day's label, Warner records, despite the fact that it was released as an internet only release with no commercial gain for the team of mash-up artists involved. In fact, the only possible profit to be made from the release was a plea from the creators of the album (known only by the shared alias Dean Gray) for fans who enjoyed the creation to donate to one of three possible charities that Green Day have been known to support. Furthermore, the mash-up versions were such fantastic productions that they were truly a departure from the standard Green Day performances and would not compete for consumptive dollars.
We hope to mobilize the online Mash-Up community by organizing a simple one-day organized event. Participants would be asked to post the American Edit album online for 24 hours only starting on Tuesday, December 13, at 12:00AM. Doing so is not intended to be a mass organization of music piracy but, rather, one single display of the consumptive power of the mash-up and home remix community in the hopes of encouraging the labels, publishers and artists who are curious about the mash-up community to consider giving the high quality productions of "illegitimate" music a legitimate consideration as a promotional avenue for all music.