I was pressed for time last week, so I’m adding last week’s blog to Free Form #3.
But first, twas sad seeing David Letterman say goodbye earlier tonight. I made it all the way through the finale without a tear until he started to introduce Paul and the band. Memories. I remember watching Zippy the Monkey Cam during college. (sigh) Onwards and upwards.
Free Form #3
Last week’s blog post:
Sounds like…1, 5, 7, 20, or 36….*
In early March of this year, a jury ruled in favor of Marvin Gaye’s family and awarded the family almost $7.4 million in a copyright infringement case regarding the late Mr. Gaye’s 1977 hit (and totally awesome song) “Got to Give it Up (Part 1)”. Watch:
The case stems from the Gaye family’s allegations that the Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams song, “Blurred Lines” used too much inspiration from “Got to Give it Up (Part 1)” and therefore infringes on the song’s copyright owned by Mr. Gaye’s family. That’s simplifying the court case tremendously, but for our purposes that will do. Here’s “Blurred Lines” (don’t worry, it’s not the version with topless women):
To be clear, I have no dog in this fight; I don’t know any of the parties involved, but merely for the purpose of full disclosure I will say this: I have been using “Got to Give it Up (Part 1)” for my workouts since 1992. I love the song and can listen to it all the time. “Blurred Lines” is a solid toe-tapper, but it doesn’t even rate with the original. In fact, I prefer Weird Al Yankovic’s parody, “Word Crimes” to “Blurred Lines”, but I digress. And here’s “Word Crimes”:
My ears do not hear much similarity between “Got to Give it Up (Part 1)” and “Blurred Lines”, much less a direct rip off. I just don’t hear it when I compare these two songs. And dear audience, just know that I listen to a lot of music and I believe I hear subtly in a song as well as the next person.
Still, I understand why the Gaye family filed the lawsuit. They feel they have to protect their intellectual property, in this case the music to “Got to Give it Up (Part 1). If they don’t protect it, someone will take advantage of them and rob them of their royalties. In my opinion, Mr. Thicke and Mr. Pharrell did not steal from Marvin Gaye’s hit. Keep in mind, this case has already been decided. For all I know, there may be an appeal in process right now.
Here’s why this ruling scares me: it will hinder creativity.
There are several areas of the arts (music, dance, theater, film, writing, poetry, etc…), and the fundamental building blocks of these particular arts (musical notes; dance moves/choreography; words, shots, and scenes) are finite. Right now the world is creating content like crazy! You name it, it’s out there and someone is writing it, rehearsing it, and/or recording it. Which also means, they’re possibly re-using something and doing so totally unaware that a similar work has been created.
Let’s imagine that I wrote a song called “Won’t Stream Over” with a catchy guitar hook and some killer lyrics about battles ahead, the TV page, and a chiming chorus of “Hey Now, Hey Now”, and then the attorneys for Crowded House (my favorite band BTW) rang me up and said, “Um hey, about your dopey tune. We think there’s a problem.” And for the sake of argument, let’s say that I’d never heard of Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” I have created a work of art with no prior awareness/knowledge of an existing piece of art, and now I’m in trouble, rightfully or not.
At this point, it would be impossible to listen to all the musical recordings generated over the past 40 years to know where you stand creatively. The simple math of listening to all the music in the world, much less retaining all the variations, would do you in. You wouldn’t have any time to write any music that could be considered a copyright violation because you’d be too busy listening to tunes (and hopefully sleeping and eating a bit).
Think there isn’t a mass of content out there? Think again:
Twitter for example, averages around 500 million tweets per day. Some of those half a trillion tweets are garbage, and I recall an old adage that someday a monkey would be able to randomly write a Shakespeare play. However, there’s whole lot of clever out there too. For instance:
(And you should follow both of these clever women on Twitter…get an account in you don’t have one!)
Having a Twitter account can open up worlds of insight and comedy, as well as skank and shenanigans. It’s like getting invited to Dorothy Parker’s salon, only better, because you’d never actually get an invite from Dorothy!
Anyway, cleverness never ends online. That’s just how Twitter works! Then there’s Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, youtube, and lest we forget, there’s also an entire realm of cleverness in day-to-day life. You remember real life, right? With all of this content, I am certain there are creative lines being blurred (pun intended), and we should just learn to live with it.
Last Fall, Disney sued JD Deadmau5 for attempting to trademark his signature “mouse ears”. Check it out:
Now, Mickey Mouse has been around since 1928, and I realize most corporate lawyers love, repeat LOVE, pissing matches. But I believe we are entering a new era of artistic repression caused by content creation and subsequent copyright/trademark issues. At one point I worked for Kenny Rogers and someone tried to sue his Kenny Rogers Roasters restaurants for cooking chicken over a wood-burning stove. What? Yeah, I think cavemen and women were cooking chicken that way a few thousand years ago, but that’s just a guess.
As a matter of fact, the same problem occurred as I was brainstorming what to name this weird era we’re entering. First I thought of muselock (already taken) then ponderlock (ditto) before settling on conjurelock. Henceforth, conjurelock shall be a noun describing the inability of a person to create, not because they aren’t able, don’t have access to the tools or materials to create (e.g., access caused by gridlock), but because the content already exists without their prior knowledge of it existing.
For creatives, this is a problem and a worthwhile challenge for all artists.
For those non-creative types out there, imagine if you could copyright a spreadsheet function and no one else could use it. Be kinda limiting, no? That’s my point. It’s a tool unavailable to you.
Anyway, those are my thoughts for the week. So let them written, so let them be dumb!
Movie Reviews (Boiled Down)
My rating system:
“See this movie!” I think that meaning is clear.
“Solid Film” A well-made, if not totally inspiring film
“Meh” Well-made movie in a genre that I may or may not care about.
“A Swing and a Miss” Movies that just don’t click, but are uniquely interesting
“Don’t Bother” Move along, there are better uses of your time…like doing your taxes.
“Fury Road” – See this movie! Yeah, it’s just a chase, and all the major females are knock-out/supermodel types, but damn: it’s a prophetical tale of our future.
“Maggie” – Solid Film Well made film by Henry Hobson, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin. Unique storytelling…like I haven’t seen in a while.
“An Honest Liar” – Solid Film Interesting documentary about The Amazing Randi, a magician who has spent the better part of his life debunking horse shit spewed by “psychics” and “mentalists” and other goofballs.
And that’s all the B.S. we have time for this week!
*Those numbers 1, 5, 7, 20, and 36 are variations on what some consider to be the total number of plots available for stories. Very limiting.