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DRM for 1'3" of Silence 637

jc42 writes "In the latest entry in the battle over Digital Rights Management, a fellow has blatantly ripped off a "tune" from the iTunes Store. "Tune" is 1 minute 3 seconds of silence. To compound his crime, he has posted the tune on his web site for anyone to download. I downloaded it to iTunes, and it played just fine (but now I suppose I'm a criminal, too). I wonder what John Cage and Mike Batt would have to say about this? Will lawyers for Apple or Ciccone Youth send a C&D letter? If I were to make my own MP3 silent tune of exactly the same length and put it online, would I be infringing their copyright?"
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DRM for 1'3" of Silence

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  • OMFG (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:47PM (#11770132)
    You people waste so much time and thought finding new ways to split hairs. Get back to work.
  • by Toutatis ( 652446 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:48PM (#11770155)
    At least in some countries there is a right to make a parody.
  • by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:48PM (#11770166)
    Lack of bandwidth appears to have stopped him already. Here's Google's cache:

    Google Cache []

    Is there something more to this than an uninteresting thought experiment in regard to IP and DRM?
  • by That's Unpossible! ( 722232 ) * on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:53PM (#11770227)
    If I were to make my own MP3 silent tune of exactly the same length and put it online, would I be infringing their copyright?

    No. First of all, no one has a copyright on any length of pure silence. You can copyright SOUND RECORDINGS. Pure silence is the absence of sound, and is therefore not copyrightable.

    However, you could record yourself sitting in front of a piano (ala Cage) and the various ambient sounds recorded would technically be a unique work, and as the original author you would own the copyright on that SOUND RECORDING.

    This guy is violating the DRM agreements that Apple set forth, so Apple could pursue him.

    As explained above, the pure silence is not copyrightable, so the RIAA has no beef.

    If the guy forgot to remove the album artwork from the file, then he is infringing the copyright of whoever owns the album artwork copyright, and they could sue him.

    What is he really trying to prove? The point is lost on me due to his ineptitude.

  • by Exluddite ( 851324 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:55PM (#11770266)
    People have been having a "moment of silence" long before the advent of recorded material. That being the case, any period of silence would just be a modern arrangement of a, song?
  • Um ... okay? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Durandal64 ( 658649 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:00PM (#11770336)
    Let me get this straight. Someone makes a "song" that's 1m 3s of silence. Some other guy makes an audio file that is 1m 3s of silence. He's daring someone to sue him, and everyone here is already screaming about it? No one's done anything! Apple hasn't sued. The artist hasn't sued. The RIAA hasn't sued. What's the big deal?
  • Re:the flipside (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OECD ( 639690 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:06PM (#11770422) Journal

    it is dumb to sell "songs" that are actually nothing more than silence. i think that is pretty ridiculous.

    Not at all! Have you never been talking in a bar when the jukebox starts blaring? I would have loved to been able to buy a minute of silence!

  • Re:OMFG (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:10PM (#11770464)
    On the contrary - it is important to draw attention to such laws. They govern a great deal of our creative works as a society, and as such merit considerable attention. Is this dorky? Sure is. Is it a good thing that it draws attention to possible absurdities in the Law of The Land? You bet. The law is THE LAW. If it is to be just, it requires continual attention by all concerned - in this case, potential users and creators of copyrighted works. I.e. - everybody.
  • Re:OMFG (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbarr ( 2233 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:10PM (#11770471) Homepage
    Yes, it does sound absurd, but I really don't think this is splitting hairs because it is specifically addressing the extent to which the DMCA can be enforced. This could very well become a "test case" that might prove to be important.

    Then again...
  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:16PM (#11770524) Homepage
    Exactly. The issue isn't copyright per se but copy protection. It doesn't matter if the thing being protected is copyrighted or not, because the protection itself is protected. You could get in trouble for breaking DRM even if the content is public domain, because Congress says the imaginary box containing that individual copy is sacred.

    If you think about it, DRM is like a privatized turbo version of copyright. Copyright infringement is a civil matter between two parties. DRM breakage is a federal crime involving fines and jail time. Pretty sweet deal to have the government investigate and prosecute your lawsuits for you for free! How did we let the entertainment industry get away with this?
  • Re:OMFG (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Captain Scurvy ( 818996 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:18PM (#11770552)
    In other words, we should never try to threaten the system (which is designed to make money for our employers) by pointing out its flaws; we should be busy making money for our employers instead.

    You're my boss, aren't you?

  • by iCEBaLM ( 34905 ) <icebalm&icebalm,com> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:19PM (#11770570)
    You can sue anybody for anything, the question is, would you win the suit?
  • Re:thoughtcrime (Score:2, Insightful)

    by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:31PM (#11770703) Journal
    That or a bandwith issue :-)
    That's why my acct got suspended once.
  • Re:Um ... okay? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LesPaul75 ( 571752 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:34PM (#11770744) Journal
    But, the point is that because of the ridiculous copyright laws in this country, someone could sue. And they might even win, based on the precendents set by the RIAA's other lawsuits (e.g. suing 14 year olds and winning).

    I think this is a fantastic example of just how nonsensical DRM, the RIAA, and the music industry in general are. Kudos to the guy who thought of it.
  • Re:John Cage (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Strudleman ( 147303 ) <strudleman.strudleman@com> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:36PM (#11770787) Homepage Journal

    This has got to be the funniest post I've ever seen. Thank you so much, I'm crying :)
  • Re:Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Draknor ( 745036 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @06:08PM (#11771217) Homepage
    I'd rather like to think that silence is already in the public domain.

    No, you're mistaking "absence" for "silence" - as in, the absence of anything new in the public domain because of perpetual copyright.

    If you've listened to the public domain recently, you would also clearly realize that silence is not a part of it, with particular thanks to car alarms and cell phones.

  • Re:Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @06:51PM (#11771697) Homepage Journal
    " I'd rather like to think that silence is already in the public domain."

    Tell that to Simon and Garfunkel...


  • Re:Well (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2005 @06:54PM (#11771736)
    Is ther now one on at /. who understand that ciccone is the last name of Madona and this is a joke from sonic youth ? It's sad that the record industri take so much interest in an old bootleg.
  • Re:John Cage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Antibozo ( 410516 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @09:29PM (#11772910) Homepage

    You're confusing the manuscript with the writing process. As with a number of Cage's pieces, the actual notes were chosen using chance operations. The fact that the manuscript had no notes written on it is due to the notes' already having been rendered tacet. No doubt there is a page somewhere in the world where Cage wrote down the operations and their result before producing the manuscript you are referring to.

    Similarly, Cage once made a film of a chess game he played with Marcel Duchamp, wherein the exposure settings for the film camera were determined by chance operations. Parts of the film are completely black. This doesn't mean there wasn't a chessboard in the frame; it means that the process didn't record its image. The manuscript for 4'33" is like the black segments of the chess film--the image is there, but the notes have been erased.

    If you actually go back and read the document you quoted, without attribution [], among many other details, you'll find the following quote from Cage:

    I wrote it note by note, just like the Music of Changes [1951]. That's how I knew how long it was when I added the notes up. It was done like a piece of music, except there were no sounds -- but there were durations.

    We may never know whether the notes Cage wrote for 4'33" had pitches. It may be that he didn't generate enough chance data to derive pitches from, or that he merely didn't bother to extract the pitch information from his data, since it wasn't needed. In the latter case, if we knew the process and had the data, we could indeed produce the pitches to go along with the durations.

    But assuming, for the sake of [your] argument, that no information for pitches was ever even generated, we could have a semantic debate as to whether durations by themselves, without pitch, constitute "notes". The fact is that, underlying 4'33", at the very least, there is a sequence of durations of specific durations. These constitute a rhythm; would you argue that a specific rhythm written out on a score to be played on a snare drum is not written "note by note"? Now take away the snare drum.

    Finally, consider that rests often occur in places where a specific pitch is expected, such as the middle of a phrase; one hears the pitch in one's mind even though it is not heard. 4'33" can be regarded as a piece where all of the notes are expected, yet heard only in one's mind. It illustrates how the act of listening for music enables the mind to hear it, even if the guy at the piano isn't touching any keys.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2005 @10:00PM (#11773079)
    i hate to play the pedant (aww, hell, who am I kidding, I live for this), but has ANYONE ever paid real money for a DRM'd copy of 1'30" of silence?

    joke is very much on you, if you happen to be out there..
  • Re:i should add... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2005 @10:33PM (#11773294)
    You think she looks good []?!!
  • Re:thoughtcrime (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @12:41AM (#11774003) Homepage
    There's always one guy who doesn't get it, and one moderator who proves the system ineffective.
  • Re:John Cage (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Antibozo ( 410516 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @01:42AM (#11774351) Homepage

    I suggest you read a bit more background about the piece; see the link cited above. The piece was, in fact, composed note by note using randomly generated data produced using a combination of the I Ching and a deck of tarot cards. The resulting data was converted into note durations using a systematic method of Cage's device, and the durations were then summed to produce the lengths of the three movements. The original durations are not recorded on the performance score, so any other gestalt of environmental events is free to take the place of the original notes comprising the piece.

    Indeed, the commonly regarded "point" of the piece is to engage the audience into listening to its environment as music. The piece does not, however, have to be performed in a concert hall, and no one needs to be shocked. Cage later stated that the specific durations of the movements were not important. In other words, one is free to perform 4'33" at any time, for any duration, for one's own, or someone else's entertainment or interest. The "performer" is anyone who creates the context of a performance of 4'33", by sitting down at a piano and not playing it, switching on a microphone and not speaking into it, or stepping outside and making a conscious decision to listen to the world. The "performance" is the moment of Zen that results.

Variables don't; constants aren't.