In 1946 an American farmer, Mr. Causby, attempted to sue the US air force for using his property. What were the USAF doing? Flying their planes overhead. The farmer reasoned that as he owned the land he also owned everything above it.
Contrary to popular opinion the farmer won, leaving the way open for endless wrangling about exactly how much air he owned, under what circumstances the air force would be allowed to use his air and how much the use of his air was worth.
A similar debate has been raging for the last few years over who owns sound recording (vibrating air you might call it). The recording industry would have us believe they do and, like Mr. Causby, the courts are on their side. They would say that file sharing is ‘killing music’ and if allowed to go on unchecked will result in artists not being properly renumerated, forcing them to stop creating and go and find regular jobs to support their families. All music creation will stop - killed by a legion of 12 year old Limewire users.
My belief is that the present copyright laws, not file sharing, are killing music (or at least attempting to throttle the life out of it). What kind of creativity could be unleashed if we stopped trying to figure out just who owns each particular piece of airspace?
Maybe this is a taste of things to come.
Ophir ‘Kutiman’ Kutiel, a 25 yr old Israeli funk musician and producer, has posted a project called Thru-You on the web. It's an album completely made up of samples taken from YouTube and re-engineered into new pieces of music.
As one site says
“They're not just patchwork assemblages, they're sample-based original creations that could hold their own on anyone's album…It's a work of next-level genius”.
So who owns this music?
Every single artists who’s music contributed? Every last church organist, guitar teacher, 80 year old session drummer, 11 year old trumpeter and even the guy selling his synth on ebay??
The publishers, who doubtless own the rights to some of the songs performed ?
Me (and everyone else who listens to it)?
I don’t know what the answer is. But what I do know is that my life is richer for the being able to hear this remarkable music and I’m glad Kutiman didn’t let the question of who owned the air stop him from creating it or sharing it.