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Copyright Battle Over Nothing 479

An Anonymous Coward writes: "In this story reported at The Independent is "one of the more curious copyright disputes of modern times." It appears that the key question is "which part of the silence was stolen." If only this was April First. This is a lawsuit suing over the sound of nothing, no sound, silence, nada, zilch, bupkiss.
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Copyright Battle Over Nothing

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  • LOL (Score:2, Funny)

    by Quasar1999 ( 520073 )
    Now I can be in trouble too... "............"
    • Re:LOL (Score:2, Funny)

      by yintercept ( 517362 )
      And in the end
      the love you take
      is equal to the love you-oo make.

      Well, the Beattles should jump in here. For awhile they had the longest silence on any major recording album...but I really am not sure if you can compare the quality of the silences. I mean, a digitally mastered silence has the potential of being leap years ahead of the lower quality vinyl silences of yesterday.
  • And the people bowed and prayed
    To the neon god they made.
    And the sign flashed out its warning,
    In the words that it was forming.
    And the sign said, "The words of the prophets
    are written on the subway walls
    And tenement halls."
    And whisper'd in the sounds of silence.
  • by websaber ( 578887 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @09:12PM (#3797876)
    If a tree falls in the forest..... is it liable for infringement?
  • by The Chaotician ( 64066 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @09:14PM (#3797885)
    and it was the best one on the CD.
    Isn't that always the way with cover songs?
  • by AmigaAvenger ( 210519 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @09:14PM (#3797886) Journal
    I hereby copyright the sound of a tree falling in the middle of a forest when no one is around to hear it. This is in addition to my copyright on the sound of one hand clapping. These copyrights shall be persued by the fullest extent of the law.
  • Would this be... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by greg_barton ( 5551 ) avant-garde lawsuit?
  • Silence (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vought 28 ( 584320 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @09:14PM (#3797889)
    Silence isn't the absence of noise...noise is simply the absence of silence. Uncork any bottle and you will likely release the trapped silence within. It's time people really started respecting other's property rights.
  • by MisterBlister ( 539957 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:02PM (#3798109) Homepage
    Let us all bow our heads for a minute of silence while we mourn the passing of common sense in the legal system.


    Done? Ok suckers, that will be $1000 per person for infringing upon the silence copyright made payable to FU Attorneys At Law. Pay up or else!!

  • How.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:06PM (#3798135) Homepage
    How can the absence of something be called a copyright violation? Unless you're looking at the quantum superstate of blank media (which would mean that anything that can exist on blank media would exist on it until it was observed), which would further enrage the RIAA and push them to sue people who produce blank media.
  • A wonderful passage (about different kinds of silence) from this classic novel can be found here [].
  • Don't shut your mouths up! You'll be in violation of yet another stupid copyright!

  • lawsuit ?? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tiwason ( 187819 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:09PM (#3798152)
    Unless i am not reading the entire article, it doesn't say anything about a lawsuit...

    its 4 paragraphs and only says "I've received a letter on behalf of John Cage's music publishers. I was in hysterics when I read their letter."

    and the guy credited them anyways.....

    fun fun
  • by delta407 ( 518868 ) <slashdot@lerfjhax. c o m> on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:09PM (#3798153) Homepage
    #include <stdio.h>

    void main()
    short silence[60*44100];
    memset(silence, 0, sizeof(silence));

    FILE * out = fopen("silence.pcm", "w");
    fwrite(silence, sizeof(short), 60*44100, out);

    Music piracy at its worst, I tell ya.

    • #include <stdio.h>

      void main()
      short silence[60*44100];
      memset(silence, 0, sizeof(silence));

      FILE * out = fopen("silence.pcm", "w");
      fwrite(silence, sizeof(short), 60*44100, out);

      Music piracy at its worst, I tell ya.

      So who is gunna print up the T-shirts?

      Any prizes for first tattoo?
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:10PM (#3798160) Homepage
    As long as people are throwing out one-liners:

    "You don't have the right to remain silent. Anything you don't say will be used against you in a court of law..."
  • What gets me is that these people can actually claim fans. If you go to a concert, do they sit quietly onstage miming shushing to the audience?
  • by gvonk ( 107719 ) <slashdot@garre t t v o n k .com> on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:12PM (#3798173) Homepage

    © gvonk, 2002, all rights reserved, etc.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:13PM (#3798179) Homepage
    "The standard of originality for copyright is low, but it exists. - Feist vs. Rural Telephone Company.
    • That's the decision, incidentally, in which the Court ruled that telephone books are not copyrightable. The presentation and layout may be copyrighted, but if you scan them in and extract the raw data, that's OK. The basic idea is that copyright protects creativity, not effort.

      There have been a few other cases like this. Another is Bridgeman vs. Corel, in which a court ruled that taking a 2D picture of an artwork for which copyright has expired does not create a copyrightable image. No originality. So Corel's clip-art disk, made from museum slides of old paintings, was OK.

  • Damn, I wish I could get a letter like that so I could sell lots of copies of empty mp3's. . .

    • Hmm... MP3 is a compressed format... silence would, presumably, be a bunch of zeroes in the file... A bunch of zeroes in a row would compress VERY well...

      Maybe this lawsuit is actually about a 500:1 compressions scheme.... ;)

  • prior art? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sysrequest ( 325177 )
    as rediculous as this may sound, couldn't someone claim prior art?

    "I've been silent long before that"

    Or is that something that only works with patents?
  • MP3's? (Score:2, Funny)

    by jagilbertvt ( 447707 )
    Where are the mp3 versions of the 2 tracks in question? Perhaps then we can judge who's in the wrong here more acurately.
  • Okay.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Well, i had a post i wrote when this showed up on the front page about 20 minutes ago.. then when i hit "submit", the story disappared from the front page and my post was lost. But i'll try again.

    What i wonder is why they're going after this guy, but not, say, Boards of Canada. Their "Geogaddi" album from the end of last year ended with a track called "Magic Window" that is 1:47 of silence. Or Korn, for that matter. "Follow the Leader" began with 13 tracks containing 4 seconds of silence.

    Perhaps it's because of just intent-- look at it this way. Magic Window (BoC) was there to make the album more inscrutable, and to bump the running time of the album up to 66:06 (Boards of Canada has been on a kick lately of littering references to Satan and David Koresh in their albums). The Korn album, meanwhile, had the silence there because they wanted to be "edgy", because they want to be like Nine Inch Nails and Tool (the "broken" EP contained a bunch of 1-second silent tracks between tracks 6 and 97, so that the two hidden tracks would be 98 and 99 respectively; Korn's "undertow" album pulled a similar trick, but it resulted in the hidden track being at 69), and because they hate their listeners (this should be apparent if you listen to the rest of the album).
    The Mike Batt track, meanwhile, is there solely for ironic value-- the same reason for the existence of 4:33. In that way, the Mike Batt track is a rip-off of the idea of 4:33 in a way that the others are not. I guess the idea is that silence can say a lot, and all those other cases were saying something different than 4:33 was. The Batt track, meanwhile, was saying the same thing.

    Anyway, i'm certain i've heard of many more instances of silent songs being tossed onto albums. The CD version of Absolute Elsewhere [], for existence. So even were the copyright valid, wouldn't they have no legal leg to stand on, since they've in the past failed to defend this copyright? (Is that just an urban legend? Maybe we should come up with a new word for urban legends that are born and propigated via slashdot. "Slashdot Myth"? Nah, that sounds silly.)

    Maybe this case is just because he credited Cage in the liner notes? If so, he should still be safe, since that would be satire.

    I don't know. I can't honestly help but wonder if the estate of John Cage isn't pulling this as some kind of massive, destructive practical joke / performance art piece. It wouldn't be that far out of character; Cage was, after all, the man who did a live performance of Vexations [].

    (Well, OK, or this is a silly record company thing by nonsentient biological humans who are aware of no concepts other than profit motive. But that's such a dull explanation!)

    --super ugly ultraman
    • So even were the copyright valid, wouldn't they have no legal leg to stand on, since they've in the past failed to defend this copyright?

      Nope. You're thinking of Trademarks.

      A copyright can't become not valid until it expires. Same with patents. But trademarks, which can last indefinitly, can be lost for nonenforcement.

      IANAL, but this is pretty basic stuff...
    • My silence is original silence, not a quotation from his silence.
    There you go. We're talking (hopefully not too loudly, mind you) about two completely different silences here. There was no stealing of silence involved.
  • As stupid as this is, let's hope no-one gets any brighter any time soon. Heh - follow me here...

    Let's say they apply one of thier DRM methods on that track. If my thinking is correct, overlaying any DRM data on silence means the DRM scheme is laid bare. Instant hack, and Linux is now hapilly playing music encrypted with the DRM scheme. Sound plausible?

    Awww, c'mon. Somebody speak up. The silence is deafening... *rimshot*

  • by BlueFall ( 141123 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:15PM (#3798196)
    The song (both versions) is one of my favorites. It's so catchy. I've had it stuck in my head whenever I didn't have another song stuck in my head... ;-)
  • (Imagine this post is blank. I tried to do it, but slash won't let me. It thinks it knows better than I do what I'm trying to say. No, the cat doesn't have my tongue.)

  • I could not find the Silence Pattern in my GOF book.
  • Bad title! (Score:4, Funny)

    by delta407 ( 518868 ) <slashdot@lerfjhax. c o m> on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:17PM (#3798207) Homepage

    Copyright Battle Over Nothing


    Silence isn't nothing, at least not on a CD. The infringing track is sixty seconds of silence, which is not sixty seconds of zeros. (Which would still be something, mind you.) In any case, the track in the suit is 5,292,000 '0111111111111111's on the CD. (60 seconds, 44100 samples per second, 2 channels, at "zero", but recall digital audio is signed so that's 2^15-1 = 32767.)

    Even if one of the two decided to use 32768 instead, the prosecution could argue there was a DC bias...

    • Re:Bad title! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by GigsVT ( 208848 )
      Interesting point, with two channels, 16 bit samples for each channel, there are a shitload of different silences. Just imagine a single sine wave, 1 minute in duration, 1/60th Hz.
      Technically not silence in the strictest sense, but not audible in any case. I bet some car audio bass freaks would argue with me, laws of physics never seem to stop them from arguing something. :)
  • by gmaestro ( 316742 ) <jason.guidry@gma i l . com> on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:17PM (#3798211)
    There are serious problems with this claim. First of which, Cage scorned the idea that 4'33" was a "silent piece." First, there are theatrical elements of David Tudor's premiere that I'm guessing are absent from this recording. Also, 4'33" is a piece in 3 movements of random length, provided that the sum their lengths equals 4'33".

    Also keep in mind this piece was premiered in an open air theatre in the forest. There would likely have been much more than silence heard.

    And this isn't even getting into the idea that it is impossible to actually hear silence.

  • Disclaimer: IANAL, this statement is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel and is not intended as legal advice. If you need legal advice with respect to copyright law, buy some.

    Any Cage recording would have been from the analog days... all that has to be done is to demand that the representatives produce the original master recording... crank way up until the noise content which is there regardless of what Cage's intent was is plainly audible, and run a copy of the noise-free recording that's allegedly in breach of copyright.

    Silence A != Silence B. Of course, there are even more sophisticated ways to differentiate the two, depending on the conditions that were used to generate the respective "silences".

    End of case, and hopefully start of new case where Cage's people get countersued for damages.

    One can copyright the concrete expression of an idea. Nobody can copyright an idea, and it looks to me like Cage's people are trying to claim copyright of the idea of silence in the context of a musical composition.

  • Wouldn't any and all blank medium before recording, violate this copyright?

    If he can get the first suit to stick, then watch out for the second suit he brings -- now with precedence ;-)

  • I hate to make a big tsimmes out of this, but it's spelled bupkis (or sometimes bobkes) in English.
  • It's time for the Trappist monks to sue Cage's publisher. (For that matter, you'll recall the final track, "The Monks' Vow of Silence" on the Chantmania CD []. If Cage's publisher didn't sue the Benzedrine Monks of Santa Demonica, then clearly they have not been vigorously protecting their copyright, have they?)
  • John Cage's 4'33" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueFall ( 141123 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:22PM (#3798236)
    I think the theory behind John Cage's 4'33" is not so much that it's a silent piece, but rather to get the audience to listen to ambient "noise" around them. The music is produced by the environment, not by the piano. You could call it conceptual art. There's a good article here [].
    With this in mind, I wonder what direction the legal case should take...
  • by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:24PM (#3798240)

    John Cage's piece, 4'33", was actually very clever and quite a novel idea for its time.

    One of the themes of his work is to let sounds be themselves. To that end, he composed a piece which involved a pianist holding his hands over a piano keyboard for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. The music was not silence, but rather the sound of the audience slowly realising to what was going on.

    As such, this piece can never really be recorded (unless you actually record an audience listening to it, and even then, it's not the same thing; once the sound is recorded, it is no longer the same kind of performance), and claiming that a recording of silence is even close to being the same thing as 4'33" is ludicrous.

    Mike Batt's problem is crediting Cage on the album. Yes, he did it for a laugh, but by doing so, did he inadvertantly claim legal liability?

    Personally, I think John Cage would have gotten a real kick out of the whole proceedings. It would have appealed to his sense of whimsy.

    • by rgmoore ( 133276 ) <> on Monday July 01, 2002 @12:30AM (#3798782) Homepage
      As such, this piece can never really be recorded (unless you actually record an audience listening to it, and even then, it's not the same thing; once the sound is recorded, it is no longer the same kind of performance), and claiming that a recording of silence is even close to being the same thing as 4'33" is ludicrous.

      I find it interesting that this is coming up, if only because I happened to be at a performance of 4'33" on Friday, and that performance most certainly was recorded! (4'33" was actually just a warm up for the main work, a masterful performance of "Sontas and Interludes for Prepared Piano", and it worked very well as a warm up.)

      If anything, I'd say that an absolute blank on the disk is closer to Cage's original intent than a recording of a live performance. It forces the listener to strain his ears trying to figure out what's going on, resulting in him listening to ambient sounds. Since that was Cage's exact intent, it seems to me that it really is a copy of his work. It certainly isn't a ridiculous thing to argue about.

      • If anything, I'd say that an absolute blank on the disk is closer to Cage's original intent than a recording of a live performance. It forces the listener to strain his ears trying to figure out what's going on, resulting in him listening to ambient sounds.

        Interesting thought. I think it depends on how you listen to the CD. If you're concentrating on something else (say, you put the headphones on while you're coding), you don't strain your ears. At a live concert, you have a more captive and focussed audience.

        Of course it would be a strange person indeed who used Cage as background music. But then, I occasionally put on THRaKaTTaK [] while coding, so who am I to judge?

    • by Bazman ( 4849 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @05:49AM (#3799572) Journal
      And the reason John Cage's piece is 4'33" is because that is 273 seconds, and absolute zero is -273C (near as makes no odds). It all makes sense now...

      Oh yeah, didn't the Bloudhound Gang do a track called "The Ten Best Things About New Jersey" which was 10 seconds of silence?

      • A similar theme (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DG ( 989 )
        I seem to recall a similar piece entitled "The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Regan"

        It seems that this joke dates at least back to the 1980's

        Prior art?

  • by alphaseven ( 540122 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:24PM (#3798242)
    From this [] L.A. Times article: Gene Caprioglio, a representative of Cage's American publisher, explained that the British organization that collects royalties had sent its standard license form to Batt. No one had sent a letter to Batt, he maintained--enraged or otherwise.

    So it looks like this was just a standard form letter that was sent out because Batt jokingly credited cage as a composer.

  • I henceforth copyright the entity known as 'whitespace', From now on, anybody who utilizes this so-called 'whitespace' as a breaking symbol in between words, numbers, and/or other symbols, and is of the color 'white', and has not licensed such use, will be used for $1000 per cm^3 of the previously defined 'whitespace'.
    • From now on, anybody who utilizes this so-called 'whitespace' as a breaking symbol in between words, numbers, and/or other symbols, and is of the color 'white', and has not licensed such use, will be used for $1000 per cm^3 of the previously defined 'whitespace'.

      Anyone who violates the copyright will be "used for $1000"? *shudder*

      However you might have better success by lowering your price a little. charge 1/100 of a cent or some value such that for most works the final amount comes out to a buck or two. Then you might actually get something out of people by threatening them with legal action which would be much more costly for them than just giving you the buck :)

  • There are at least two examples of prior art in this case. In the 1960's someone released a single titled "Three Minutes of Silence" that enjoyed a brief popularity. The record actually provided a valued service: patrons at diners could purchase three minutes of relief from the jukebox. In the 1970's a copycat (who shoulda been SUED!!!) released a single titled "Silent Knight" that enjoyed no popularity at all.

    My source on this is a bit of trivia mentioned by Mr. Top 40 himself, Casey Casem on one of his shows.

  • What lawsuit? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Durindana ( 442090 )
    What did I miss? I saw "dispute" and letter received on behalf of, but I saw nothing that indicated a lawsuit had been filed.

    Why is this assumption made? That is damned ironic, that we immediately project this concept called "lawsuit" onto any dispute, argument, disputation or disagreement.

    From my reading of the (very brief) blurb, this has not and may well not end up in court. So please reserve judgment on the "legal system" until it's been called in.
  • by dirkmuon ( 106108 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:34PM (#3798290)
    It appears that John Cage's publisher has a clueless lawyer posting letters. Cage's 4'33" isn't 4 minutes, 33 seconds of silence. It is, instead. an early example of performance art in which a pianist comes onstage, sits at the instrument, and does not play for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. There is never any silence--the audience makes all sorts of noise, and there will be other noise in the room, e.g., from lights, air handling, outside traffic. One of the points of the piece, obviously, is to promote awareness of these ostensibly non-musical sounds. Another point may be to poke fun at the conventions of "classical" concerts.

    I met John Cage and performed one of his pieces for him. He would have laughed at this nonsense along with the rest of us (and he would have told his publisher to stop sending foolish letters).

  • Has Batt heard Cage's piece? If not, he may have just independently implemented it from the spec.
  • Devil's Advocate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WEFUNK ( 471506 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:37PM (#3798298) Homepage
    From the article: "They say they are claiming copyright on a piece of mine called 'One Minute's Silence' on the Planets' album, which I credit Batt/Cage just for a laugh. But my silence is original silence, not a quotation from his silence."

    This sounds very silly, but maybe there is a valid point to be made. Mike Batt has a silent track on his album, apparently in something of an homage to avant-garde, experimentalist composer John Cage. To reinforce the connection he even co-credits Cage on the track (but presumably isn't giving out any royalties).

    If he simply left a minute of silence on his album (without the credit) then I'd definitely think that there's nothing there. However, by crediting Cage (even as a joke or a tribute) he has opened himself up to charges of copyright infringement and/or misrepresentation.

    Without even "listening", one would get the impression (from his liner notes) that his work either draws from Cage, or is co-authored by him. This goes beyond copyright - for instance, even if Mickey Mouse became public domain, no one using should ever be allowed to pretend to be either Disney or to be authorized by Disney (without their permission).

    IANAL, but to me there are two valid reasons for IP laws. The first is to encourage dissemination of ideas by rewarding creativity. This is the one that is generally criticized, since the method of reward (monopoly etc.) is somewhat arbitrary and frequently abused. The other reason for IP protection is to prevent misrepresentation. This concept should always be upheld, even regardless of whether a copyright, patent, or trademark has expired.

    I appreciate the subtle satire achieved by crediting Cage, but in this case it leaves the potential for confusion and the impression that Cage has contributed to and is getting reimbursed for the work. The lawyers might not agree, but Cage should either pay up, remove the credit only, or (my preferred choice) clearly identify the work (including the credit, which has artistic merit) as a non-derivative tribute/satire.

    PS. Sorry about the pun's (unintentional, honest).
  • Cage's 4'33" (4 minutes, 33 seconds) was mostly an experiment into the nature of silence.

    Cage actually spent a lot of time researching Zen teachings. His research into silence eventually led him to Harvard University and a visit to its Anechoic Chamber - a closed environment supposedly complete free of noise.

    "While he literally expected to hear nothing, after leaving the chamber, Cage explained to a nearby engineer that he had heard two sounds in the chamber, one high, and one low. The engineer told Cage that the high sound was his nervous system in operation, and that the low sound was his blood circulating"

    The point of 4'33" was to state that there is no such thing as silence. For more info, check out this paper [] by Andrew Schulze on the subject.

  • ...their 1998 album "Follow The Leader" featured 12 tracks of silence before the music began.

    Observe. []

    Obviously this is going to be thrown right out. Interesting though is the "composer" of this particular "silence" credited Cage's 4'33" (see this post []). Coudl that alone do it? IANAL...
  • As a former employee of Pat Obriens in the French Quarter in New Orleans I can let you in on a little known fact.

    They have the phrase "Have Fun!" copyrighted. So I guess you cant say it or have fun without dire results.

    If you check their web-page out, look at the very bottome and you can read it in the blurb there.

    Just thought of something, if we slashdot their box, it is almost the equivalent of what their booz has been doing to people for years.

    • by PurpleBob ( 63566 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @12:28AM (#3798772)
      Welcome to Slashdot, where Copyright == Trademark.

      It even says on the page you linked: "'Have Fun!' is a registered trademark of Pat O'Brien's".

      Which is still somewhat absurd, but they probably do have some legal ground - if some competing establishment tried to use "Have Fun!" as a slogan, it would justifiably be considered trademark infringement.

      If the words "Have Fun!" really were considered a copyrightable work of literature, it would indeed be the most ludicrous copyright ever, so it's rather nice that that's entirely untrue.
  • I wonder... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GrandCow ( 229565 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:42PM (#3798326)
    How does this bode for CD's with a "secret track" on them? I'm talking about the CD's where on the last track, after the main song is finished, there is about 6 minutes of silence and then some more music or a clip of the band talking and hanging out. Do all these CD's infringe on the copyright?
  • And it's a piece intended to be performed live, the musician plays nothing but the audience is moving in their chairs, whispering about what's going on, coughing, sneezing etc. and this is the beauty of Cage's piece. It's different everytime.
  • In other news, the price of Sketch Pads has increased by %.27 cents a page. Artists across the country are furious over this ridiculous price increase after a reputable modern artist copyrighted a blank canvas and demanded licensing fees for the reproduction of his work. His work, "A Polar Bear Blinking in a Blizzard", caught the art world by storm through his originality and artistic efficiency.
  • Read the article (Score:2, Informative)

    by Fished ( 574624 )
    It appears that the producer actually makes reference to Cage in the credits - in fact, gives him credit for the track. In that light, this would seem to be at least somewhat derivative. Still absurd, but not quite as absurd as it would seem otherwise.
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:53PM (#3798374) Journal

    It seems like the new FreeBSD Logo [] is violating a copyright also.

  • I copyrighted the note "F" some time ago, and almost successfully sued Britney Spears for using it without my permission, except her lawyers found a loophole, claiming that she wes really singing "E#." Fucking lawyers.
  • How can these clowns hope to copyright silence when I've already obtained 3 patents on it?
    • Obviously, it was generated in an entirely different way. If, for instance, your patent is for the tree-in-an-empty-forest method and they utilized the more esoteric clapping-with-one-hand method, they haven't violated your patent.

      • But, but, but ...

        I've patented the concepts of making silence through (1) not making any noise, (2) failing to record said noise, and (3) a catch-all that covers anything that might not be covered by the first two.

        I asked my lawyer if I had missed anything, and when he paused for a second, I had him arrested for violating my patent. Maybe that was a bad idea?
  • John Cage himself has been silent on the issue.

  • From the article, this is the man behind The Wombles [] music. If you check out the theme tune, what do you hear?

    Making good use of the things that we find,
    Things that the everyday folks leave behind.

    Have you ever heard a more blatent admission of IP theft? Lock him up now, I say!

    P.S. Please ignore this post if you didn't grow up in England in the 70s/80s...
    • Damn, I wish I had my points back - excellent issue you raise! This might not seem such a big deal in the socialist UK, but it's blatantly obvious to us yanks. :)
  • My proposal:
    Mic feces and recorded it in a studio. (Make sure the acoustics of the room are just right and EQ out any reflected sound).

    Every time somebody claims that music playing on the radio sounds like shit, sue the band's asses off!

    "That sounds very similar to my piece 'Fecal Matter in D Minor'! I am insensed! I'll settle for $3,000,000 out of court. Ta"

  • My guess is that there really *is* a big difference at the barest levels. Chances are good the original 'silence' was an analog recording, which wouldn't sound the same as digital silence. The media to playback the original would have been tape/vinyl/whatever. This current silence was either recorded or just reproduced digitally, probably intended for CDs primarily. Look at a sonic meter thingy analyzing Cage's silence and the Batt silence. I'm sure there's a *big* difference.
  • Prior? (Score:2, Funny)

    by sudotcsh ( 95997 )
    What about my "Best of Marcel Marceau" LP, copyright 1955?
  • Now what am I supposed to do during the marketing presentation when I am usually SSS (Skeptically Sitting Silently).....
  • The Louisiana band Better Than Ezra has a track at the end of their album "Deluxe" that includes a long period of silence. The track starts with the song "Coyote", which is followed by a very long silence, a minute or two, then there is what can only be described as a nonsense song which has the refrain "Der pork und beans mit saurkrauten". So why didn't John Cage's minions get upset over that - merely because it's not listed in the credits as a separate song?

    The silence always fools me into thinking that the music is over - which is probably what it's meant to do, being at the end of the CD. It's especially confusing when I'm listening to a bunch of randomized mp3s; I hit that silence and "What, my playlist is over already?" If I'm coding or something, I just tolerate the silence, thinking I'll start some new tracks at the next compile. Then the "hidden" song starts, and I realize I've been fooled again.

    The Cage estate should sue BTE and make them recall all those nasty hurtful fooling CDs. More lawyers! Litigation solves everything!

    BTW, Tom Petty put a little CD-only track into the middle of his "Full Moon Fever" CD many years ago. It was a spoken bit, with the studio musicians in the background making barnyard noises, and Tom says "Hello CD listeners! We've come to the point in this album where those listening on record or cassette will have to stand up, or sit down and turn over the record or tape. In fairness to those listeners, we'll now take a few seconds before we begin side2... Thank you. Here's side2..."

    Am I offtopic yet?

  • Nixon (Score:5, Funny)

    by adam613 ( 449819 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @12:15AM (#3798711)
    Former US President Richard Nixon can claim prior art on this. He recorded 18 and a half minutes of silence back in the 70s.
  • Miranda? (Score:3, Funny)

    by gerardrj ( 207690 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @12:44AM (#3798848) Journal
    you have the right to remain silent, just not the copyright to remain silent. Anything you don't say may be used in a DMCA case against you.

    Double Hmmm... "We have ways of making you talk". It may be decision time: testify against yourself, or face the rats nest that is a copyright/DMCA case against you. Either way you're screwed.


  • Be careful (Score:3, Funny)

    by anpe ( 217106 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @03:39AM (#3799310)
    That means that when we aren't making noise we're violating the DMCA !
    La la la la la la shok shok la la
  • reminds me... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by psych031337 ( 449156 ) <psych0 AT wtnet DOT de> on Monday July 01, 2002 @04:21AM (#3799406)
    ...of that guy who put together a compilation of "1-minute silences". He just got the audio recordings of all the respective happenings (Lady Di memorial, whatever) and cut out the 1-minute silence period which by definition was not quite silent - you would hear distand police sirens, people couging, whatever.

    Back when I read about it, I thought that it was way too ridiculoud to be topped. Well, this story got me.
  • Sounds iffy to me .. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FatBoy Titties ( 192059 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @09:52AM (#3800056)
    Firstly, I was under the impression that 4'33" was more of a performance piece.

    Secondly, (quoted from azstarnet [])
    4'33", pronounced "four minutes, thirty-three seconds", (Cage himself referred to it as "four, thirty-three") is often mistakenly referred to as Cage's "silent piece". He made it clear that he believed there is no such thing as silence, defined as a total absence of sound. In 1951, he visited an anechoic chamber at Harvard University in order to hear silence. "I literally expected to hear nothing," he said. Instead, he heard two sounds, one high and one low. He was told that the first was his nervous system and the other his blood circulating. This was a major revelation that was to affect his compositional philosophy from that time on. It was from this experience that he decided that silence defined as a total absence of sound did not exist. "Try as we may to make a silence, we cannot," he wrote. "One need not fear for the future of music."
    One would imagine that Blatt's silence would be a digital silence - no noise, a silent file he generated and slapped on a CD. Cage's silence (not that it is silence as outlined above), since it is much older, would probably have at least white noise in it on a recording. Clearly since Cage did not believe that silence could exist neither he nor his estate could claim ownership of silence.

  • Nothing is something (Score:3, Interesting)

    by uncoveror ( 570620 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @10:25AM (#3800247) Homepage
    Let me see if I understand correctly. Not only is nothing now something, but someone owns it, and will sue if you use it. I hope this lawsuit will point out to legislators and courts worldwide how copyrights, patents, and other "intellectual property" laws no longer stimulate innovation or creativity, but have become nothing but a money grab scam. The following sentance used to be a double-negative, but is now perfect english. Don't buy nothing from the recording industry. []
  • by edp ( 171151 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @11:42AM (#3800778) Homepage

    I wasn't going to enter a response to this article, but I was afraid of receiving a cease and desist order if I remained silent.

  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @03:55PM (#3802650) Homepage Journal
    While we can all applaud John Cage for this attempt to introduce even more surrealism to the copyright debate, I might also mention that back in the 80's AT&T made, in all seriousness, a copyright claim on blank lines.

    This was in the /bin/true program, which along with /bin/false is part of every unix system library. It's a bit of trivia, but these commands are needed for some scripting applications. The "true" command is a command that merely exits with a successful (zero) status. Its most common use was for a "while true do ..." infinite loop.

    The script actually contained no code, since its behavior is the default action of a shell script if there is no code. However, it did contain two significant pieces of text.

    It contained a blank line, and an AT&T copyright notice.

    I had a bit of fun at the time posting the program in its entirety to several newsgroups, pointing out that I was openly and knowingly publishing the full source code for an AT&T copyrighted program, and I challenged their lawyers to sue me for infringment.

    I never heard from them. This is a bit strange, since, although they might not have been following any of the tech newsgroups, they almost certainly would have received copies of my message from a lot of readers.

    We had several good discussions of whether we should go through all our files and delete all the blank lines to comply with the AT&T copyright.

    It wasn't clear whether AT&T was claiming ownership of only the blank lines in shell scripts, all programs, all files, or all documents (on disk or paper). If I'd ever heard from any AT&T lawyers, I would have asked them.

    Maybe we can actually get such things resolved now. I'll predict that the Cage folks will be happy to discuss the issue with us ...

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle