Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Can You Copyright Silence?

Detweiler Soundcloud InfringementD.J. Detweiler has been pushing SoundCloud's copyright buttons for the last few years with satirical "flutedrop" remixes of popular songs using a simple recorder (the instrument, not the machine).

The group has taken the pursuit to a new level by posting a version of John Cage's "4:33," which is Cage's conceptual piece that's nothing but 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence.

SoundCloud removed Detweiler's piece on the basis of copyright infringement (see the graphic on the left), not because of the silence, but because of a mashup of a Justin Bieber song within the piece.

That said, Cage's piece was a performance piece only and never recorded, mostly to bring up the question, "Can you copyright silence?"

If Cage's piece is nothing but silence, is it even possible to copy it in the first place?

Had Detweiler just placed a silent recording online and retitled it something other than "4:33," SoundCloud might not have taken it down, but would the recording then still be infringing on Cage's copyright?

I don't know the answer here, but it does bring up yet another deep philosophical question - "Can total silence be music, and if so, how much of it equals a song, or at least enough to earn a copyright?"

What do you think?

1 comment:

Gloves said...

Cage's concert piece of 'silence' isn't actually silence, since the sounds one hears from inside that concert hall all constitute 'music' according to Cage. Coughing, the whir of AC, shuffling, all may be heard by chance.


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