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Dark Side of the Cartridge

April 1, 2010

I’ve tried to explain that one of the main flaws of Copyright law in digital culture is that its protection extends far beyond the original works themselves.  I’ll agree that it makes sense to prevent people from costlessly copying and profiting off the original works themselves, but to preclude the creation of works which exhibit enough of their own creativity to deserve their own protection (out of an instinctive sense of fairness, I suppose) is not going to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”  I’ve argued that the Fair Use doctrine alone is not going to be enough to create space for creators to create when potential liability looms in the mere act of “preparing” a derivative work.  I’ve tried to point out that our Copyright policies cause the energies of people–who are willing to create for free–to go down the drain simply because they were inspired by some work they love.  And it’s almost implicitly necessary that the original work receiving the protection was already successful on some level if there are people willing to create a derivative work for its own sake.  Should we be discouraging creation simply because the creators are fanboys?

Hell, I’ve even pointed out that combining Nintendo and Dark Side of the Moon can make for good derivative works.  But I’ve never heard anything quite as amazing (and thoroughly violating the letter of Copyright law) as this:

Apparently, video game programmer Brad Smith used actual sound files from the NES (which would violate each and every one of those works’ creators and probably Nintendo’s rights to protect against copying the actual sound effect) to recreate the legendary Dark Side of the Moon (violating Pink Floyd’s composition rights).  And yet, this brilliant work probably needs a good, ballsy lawyer if anyone involved even feels like suing.  Is that right?

Hat-tip to Craig.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. David Schwartz permalink
    April 2, 2010 9:01 am

    Along the same lines, look up “Mario Paint” on youtube, its a SNES game that allowed you to create music, you can see lots of cool songs people recreated, fun times.

  2. Ramy El-Meligy permalink
    April 2, 2010 12:48 pm

    I wonder if this would fall under the rubric of “violations of Copyright Law”, even though it’s a parody, which as I understand, are given some leeway. It’s a pretty blatant (if humorous) use of copyrighted material.

    • slickricks permalink*
      April 2, 2010 12:55 pm

      Ramy, if you look at some of my older posts I link to at the top of this one, I explain that sheer parody does not typically receive copyright protection unles it is considered a “fair use,” and within that doctrine there are limitatios based on how much of the original work is used and to what extent it needs to be copied to allow discussion, criticism, etc. That definition is terribly murky and hardly enough protection to stop censorship in the guise of copyright protection.

      Need evidence of that point? Even Weird Al pays the royalties on the composition rights to the songs he parodies, even though it’s entirely rerecorded by him and other musicians.


  1. Conan the Copyright Barbarian « The New Print

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