In 1952, experimental composer John Cage wrote a piece of music called 4’33”. Actually, its less music and more artistic statement. The composition is literally comprised of four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence. The real “performance” of the piece comes spontaneously from the uncomfortable shuffling of concert hall patrons and the general ambiance of whatever room it’s being performed in.
Here’s a video of what it looks like live:
The idea of copyrighting four minutes and thirty-three seconds is too ridiculous even for the most trollish copyright lawyers, as demonstrated in the case of Mike Batt v. the estate of John Cage.
But the lunacy of copyright infringement on an empty audio track seems lost on SoundCloud, still one of the most popular online destinations for podcasters, DJs, musicians, producers, and other audio specialists.
SoundCloud user D.J. Detweiler brilliantly trolled SoundCloud’s terrible copyright removal process by uploading a silent track titled “John Cage – 4’33 (DJ DETWEILER REMIX).” Despite the track itself not really being copyrighted, as established previously, SoundCloud sent Detweiler a takedown notice.
This begs the question: why? As it turns out, SoundCloud has a rather lazy system for flagging and removing content. Instead of scanning uploaded content to see if it matches copyrighted material, they take a rather ineffective shortcut: scanning track titles for anything that sounds like a copyrighted song.
It looks like SoundCloud has all but given in to the outrageous demands of music industry copyright trolls and will now do whatever is necessary to protect themselves from liability. In doing so, they may be alienating longtime users who valued the service for its protection of remix-artists against dubious copyright claims.
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