kottke.org is grey today because I believe that musical sampling without prior consent of the copyright holder should be legally allowed because it does our society more good than harm.
Late last year, a DJ named Danger Mouse took The Black Album by Jay-Z, mixed it with samples taken from the Beatles’ White Album, and produced The Grey Album. He sent the album to a few folks and now — blame the Internet — everyone has a copy.
EMI, one of the big five record companies, parent of Capitol Records, and owner/controller of the Beatles musical catalog, sent Danger Mouse a cease-and-desist letter, claiming that he had infringed on their copyright of the Beatles tunes in question. (Jay-Z, on the other hand, released an a capella version of The Black Album so that precisely this type of sampling/remixing would occur.) Andy Baio and several other people posted MP3 copies of The Grey Album on their Web sites and were also sent letters by representatives of EMI ordering them to remove the songs from their sites.
Believing that “the record industry has become a huge drag on creativity”, music activist group Downhill Battle organized Grey Tuesday (Feb 24) and urged Web sites to turn grey and/or host MP3 versions of The Grey Album. I’m not hosting any of the MP3 files (you can find the files on these sites), but I have turned the site grey for the day to show my support for more permissive copyright laws. Instead of locking creativity up, I say set it free and see what happens.