Importance

February 17, 2004

The Grey Album - No Copying Necessary

Educated Guesswork has an insightful response to the ongoing Grey Album controversy (Infringing mixes). The proposal is that rather than distribute the fully remixed version of the Beatle's White Album with Jay-Z's Black Album, one could distribute the mechanical instructions for remixing the albums: a remix recipe if you will. Those interested in the Grey Album would have to have access to both the White Album and Black Album in order to make use of the recipe, but the traditional elements of copyright would not be implicated in such a scheme. I believe that this is a brilliant model for our rip-mix-burn culture.

Of course, despite the fact that the traditional elements of copyright are not implicated, copyright holders do not like this vision of the remixed future. Indeed, that is one of the major issues in question in the ongoing "Clean Flicks" case involving similar technology used with DVDs. I say, let a thousand edits bloom, let us hurry the future of digital annotations.

Posted by Ernest at 6:45 PM
  Comments and Trackbacks (http://www.corante.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/1276)

I agree, that is a terrific idea. The mixmeister would release some kind of recipe which would show how to do the mix, and you could have a mix program which would take this data along with the source music and create the final product, the new remix. This would actually increase sales of the copyrighted source materials so it should be a proposal that could be endorsed by them. It's in conflict with the European "moral rights of authors" principle but that hasn't taken hold too heavily in the U.S. yet.

It also reminds me of hypertext pioneer Ted Nelson's Xanadu concept, which was built on "transclusion". This was virtual inclusion, incorporation of data by reference rather than by copy. And then the system would take care of the accounting so that transcluded data would automatically get royalties as appropriate. I don't think we'll ever see Nelson's idea in its original form but this could be a particular domain where it might work.

Now, if something like this catches on, does it address some of the opposition to copyright based on the limitations that it puts on new works? One of the arguments put forth by Lessig for enlarging the public domain is that it can serve as the foundation for new kinds of creative output. If copyrighted documents could similarly be used, but in such a way that owners got their royalties, then copyright would no longer be such a barrier to derivative artistic efforts.

Posted by Cypherpunk on February 17, 2004 08:58 PM | Permalink to Comment
Recipe Media

Excerpt: Ernie Miller posts on a though on the The Grey Album: The Grey Album - No Copying Necessary. Educated Guesswork has an insightful response to the ongoing Grey Album controversy (Infringing mixes). The proposal is that rather than distribute the

Read the rest...

Trackback from Napsterization.org, Feb 19, 2004 8:14 AM

Sounds cool on paper - this is how the "lame" MP3 encoder is distributed - as a series of patches against Fraunhofer's source code. But this isn't source code - this is music. How could any computer recipe possibly encapsulate the Grey Album in all its turns, spontaneiety, sudden twists? Even the very idea of a notation that could accurately describe the musical progression of something this complex defies imagination.

Posted by Scot Hacker on February 25, 2004 08:43 AM | Permalink to Comment

How do you think that DJ Dangermouse created the Grey Album in the first place? At a minimum, recording his digital manipulations of the source and having access to the source should be enough to permit others to replicate the creation on their own systems.

Posted by Ernest Miller on February 25, 2004 02:42 PM | Permalink to Comment
Thoughts on The Gray Album

Excerpt: DJ Danger Mouse's The Grey Album has been on my iPod for a week now, and I'm still feeling conflicted by it. In case you've missed the story, executive summary: DJ Danger Mouse has taken Jay-Z's "The Black Album" and remixed it with samples from the B...

Read the rest...

Trackback from birdhouse.org, Feb 27, 2004 7:55 AM

Ernest, Dangermouse sure didn't use a recipe or formula to create this mix. It's a piece of music, an aesthetic creation. Dangermouse himself could never reproduce it the same way twice. 1) No notation or technology exists for this kind of performance, and even if it did, it would be limited to a certain level of simplicity - nothing remotely approaching this level of complexity could be entered into the system (unless computers could somehow be told to listen to the two sources and deconstruct the mix technique, but now we're really out in the left field of impossibility). To imagine that a recipe like this would be possible is to take an exceptionally reductionistic view of the music (not that I think the Grey Album is great music, but it certainly is remixology of mind boggling complexity).

My full thoughts on the album are here:
http://birdhouse.org/blog/archives/001233.php

Posted by Scot Hacker on February 27, 2004 07:55 AM | Permalink to Comment
Thoughts on The Gray Album

Excerpt: DJ Danger Mouse's The Grey Album has been on my iPod for a week now, and I'm still feeling conflicted by it. In case you've missed the story, executive summary: DJ Danger Mouse has taken Jay-Z's "The Black Album" and remixed it with samples from the B...

Read the rest...

Trackback from birdhouse.org, Feb 27, 2004 8:11 AM

Why are you confusing the difficulty in creating the mix with the difficulty to express it.

It does not matter how the mix was created. Once that is done, you can mechanically represent the difference between it and its sources. The representation of that needs only convey the final result (take 1s of source A, apply this filter, paste at 3s from begginning, etc) without any regard to how the creator actually did it.

Posted by Rodrigo G on March 10, 2004 05:12 PM | Permalink to Comment

Scott Hacker is right, it would be virtually impossible to recreate, even with the proper technology. The listener would also need to know how to scratch, for example, and be willing to invest countless hours to get one milisecond of sound to use in a loop. This "recipie" idea is ludicrous, I'm sorry. Just because I have a guitar doesn't mean I know how to play it.

Posted by Matthew on March 24, 2004 08:01 PM | Permalink to Comment

You don't get it. You don't have to scratch or play the guitar to make the mix. If the mix was created digitally (which many are now), then you just have to save what the computer did to the original sound. No talent necessary.

Posted by Ernest Miller on March 24, 2004 08:30 PM | Permalink to Comment

The recipe idea is fantastic, mainly because it wouldn't be like telling a person how to mix these two albums into a new album. That is improbable and kind of absurd for mass replication. But, and this is really exciting, if a programmer could develope a piece of software that could save the mix into a sort of encryption code, and then that code could be disseminated...all you'd need is the software, the codes and the source music. God that would be cool.

Posted by jimiarch on March 25, 2004 03:33 PM | Permalink to Comment

I saw Dangermouse on MTV and they showed how he made the Gray Album. It's good old Sonic Foundry (now Sony) ACID Pro all the way. So for this to work he could release his .acd files - they tell ACID how to sequence the samples and what effects to apply and so on, but do not contain any actual copyrighted information - along with detailed instructions on how to recreate the samples. Re-assembly would be tedious, but someone could create a special CD ripper program which automates the process. Put in the CDs, start it up, an hour later you have all the samples.

Posted by Ian S. on March 26, 2004 04:33 PM | Permalink to Comment

Reminds me of an early failed Web plugin - around 1995 Voyager made a plugin that could be used to author web pages using a specific CD the end user inserted - then based on programming commands the CD could play fragments, phrases or loops of the CD. It was conceived as a learning tool - play and dissect a classical CD, or build a web page to use samples of a specific CD. I fooled around with deconstructing some Pink Floyd and I talked a progammer into making a tool that would deconstruct any CD by playing loops and gradually slipping into different areas of the disk as it looped. The CD-Link tool never went anywhere because Voyager never offered an authoring tool and authoring manually was tedious. And the couldn't figure out how to make money on it. And it fell by the wayside.

But - imagine a web plugin or stand-alone software like this in the context of the Grey Album discussion here. Imagine being able to author some music based on the premise that the end user owns or at least has copies of the actual CDs used. Insert a CD or two and the loops are queued into RAM and then mixed and matched as per the "recipe".

This would seem to overcome the copyright issues because it would be just distributing instructions sets used to manipulate the source material.

On the other hand, the controversy over new DVD players that v-chip-like live-edit out the nasty bits of a DVD seems like a similar idea in some ways and is facing some lawsuits on copyright issues over re-interpreting the movies.

I think that software that authored looped works based on songs still on legit source CDs would be an interesting twist. Imagine an Acid-like tool that let you make your own loops on the fly from live manipulatino of CDs?

Posted by Mal Humes on April 23, 2004 04:28 AM | Permalink to Comment

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