Results for Lawrence Lessig

interviews

Lawrence Lessig

Next up, Jim and Greg play a bit of The Grey Album, a mashup of The Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album made by DJ Danger Mouse. This album received a lot of critical praise in 2004 (it even topped both Jim and Greg's year-end lists). It's a completely modern work that could not be made without recent digital technologies. The rub? It cannot be purchased anywhere, and most people who have heard it don't own a hard copy. This is because according to current copyright law, what DJ Danger Mouse did was completely illegal. To discuss how laws like this are stifling art, and how music in the digital age is changing, Jim and Greg welcome the definitive expert on this issue: Lawrence Lessig. Professor Lessig, a faculty member of Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society, has authored three books on cyber law and free culture, tried cases before the Supreme Court and founded Creative Commons, an organization trying to expand the range of creative work legally available to share.

While copyright laws have existed for over 200 years, music was not protected for a long time. Early in the 20th century, protections for musicians and songwriters were put in place, but these laws did not necessarily hinder creativity. Once a song was recorded, anyone had the right to record it. This encouraged artists and was fundamental to the growth of the music industry — so much so that even the RIAA defended this right. The 21st century version of this kind of conversation between artists is sampling — but under current law, Professor Lessig explains, sampling is considered piracy. Therefore, creative expression and evolution are not fostered the way they were in the last century.

Digital copyright laws also affect the consumer. In fact, Lessig suggests that“creator”might be a more appropriate name. In the last century, fans would buy music or make mixtapes, but current technology allows listeners to take part in the creative process. The law currently treats these creative consumers, many of whom are kids, as thieves. While our guest doesn't condone illegal behavior, he hopes to see existing laws change, rather than prosecute fans who are hardly criminals.

In addition to changing laws, Professor Lessig recommends that record companies use the Web rather than fight it. If he ran a label, he says, he would encourage people to participate in the creative process and remix an artist's work. Lessig would also allow and encourage artists to release their music on the internet. A small number of bands including Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Wilco have been able to do this with really positive results. Finally, if he ran a label, he would not bite the hand that feeds him, backing away from the harmful DRM technologies that labels are bundling into their content.

Go to episode 12

Lawrence Lessig

Next up Jim and Greg play a bit of The Grey Album, a mashup of The Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album made by DJ Danger Mouse. This was an album that received a lot of critical praise and attention. It even topped both Jim and Greg's year-end lists. It is a completely modern work that could not have been made without recent digital technologies. The rub here is that it could not be purchased anywhere, and many people who heard it don't even own a hard copy. This is because, according to current copyright law, what DJ Danger Mouse did was completely illegal. To discuss how laws like this are stifling art and how music in the digital age has changed in other ways, Jim and Greg welcome the definitive expert on this issue: Lawrence Lessig. Professor Lessig, a faculty member of Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society, has authored three books on cyber law and free culture, tried cases before the Supreme Court and founded Creative Commons, an organization trying to expand the range of creative work legally available to share.

While copyright laws have existed for over 200 years, music was not protected for a long time. Early in the 20th century protections for musicians and songwriters were put in place; however these laws did not necessarily hinder creativity. Once a song was recorded, anyone had the right to record it. This encouraged artists and was fundamental to the growth of the music industry, so much so that even the RIAA defended this right. The 21st century version of this kind of conversation between artists is sampling, but under current law, Professor Lessig explains, sampling is considered piracy. Therefore, creative expression and evolution are not fostered the way they were in the last century.

To demonstrate this point, Jim and Greg discuss the evolution of one song in the 20th century. Whether it was called“To the Pines,”"In the Pines," or even“Where Did You Sleep Last Night,”musicians like Leadbelly and Nirvana would quote and reference each other, essentially engaging in a dialogue and helping to inspire one another. This kind of songwriting and recording is the definition of a musical community and has been around since music itself. The sad truth is that such a community can't legally exist today. Listen to the songs that may have been lost had this been the case before the digital age:

  • Bill Monroe - "In the Pines," recorded between 1936-1941
  • Leadbelly - "In the Pines," 1947
  • Bascom Lamar Lunsford - "To the Pines, To the Pines," 1949
  • Joan Baez - "In the Pines," recorded between 1960 - 1963
  • The Grateful Dead - "In the Mines," 1966
  • Nirvana - "Where did you Sleep Last Night," 1994
  • Rancho Deluxe - "In The Pines," 2005
  • Smog - "In The Pines," 2005

Other versions include:

  • Clifford Jordan - "Black Girl," These Are My Roots, 1965
  • Mark Lanegan - "Where Did You Sleep Last Night," The Winding Sheet, 1990
  • Dolly Parton - "In the Pines," Heartsong, 1994
  • Louvin Brothers -“In the Pines,”Tragic Songs of Life, 1956
  • Youth Gone Mad feat. Dee Dee Ramone - "In the Pines," Youth Gone Mad, 2002

Digital copyright laws affect the consumer as well. In fact, Professor Lessig suggests that“creator”might be a more appropriate name. In the last century, music fans would buy music or make mixtapes, but current technology allows the listener to be a part of the creative process. The law currently treats these creative consumers, many of whom are kids, as thieves. Our guest does not condone illegal behavior, but strives to change existing laws rather than prosecute people who are hardly criminals.

In addition to changing laws, Professor Lessig recommends that record companies use the Web rather than fight it. If he ran a label he would encourage people to participate in the creative process and remix an artist's work. He would also allow and encourage artists to release their music on the internet. A small number of bands including Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Wilco have been able to do this with really positive results. Finally, if he ran a label, he would not bite the hand that feeds him and back away from the harmful DRM technologies that labels are bundling into their content.

Go to episode 134

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Jim and Greg sit down with the band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. This East Coast quintet was one of the success stories of 2005. They paid for, produced, and released their self-titled debut album on the ‘net without the help of a record label. Now they’ve sold over 100,000 albums and are selling out shows across the country. Professor Lawrence Lessig, cyberlaw expert and esteemed Sound Opinions guest, cites the band as an example of how people can use the Internet to propel music. A community formed around the band — one that was still willing to pay for their music despite the fact that it was available for free. As Jim points out, this completely contradicts what the RIAA and music industry execs would have you believe.

The lead singer of Clap Your Hands, Alec Ounsworth, is often compared to Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, and this goes beyond just vocal quality. Alec mentions his love of Another Green World by groundbreaking“non-musician”Brian Eno (or Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno as his parents know him). You can hear a lot of the New Wave sound and Eno's philosophy in the band's music, like on the spartan, rhythmic New York sound of "Sombre Reptiles."

The band, which got its name after the members saw“Clap Your Hands Say Yeah”scrawled on a Brooklyn wall, play several songs from their debut album. Jim sees keyboardist Robbie Guertin's parents sitting in the Chicago Public Radio control room and reminisces about when his own mom used to come to see him play at less-than-refined venues like CBGB's. He adds that Joey Ramone's mom also used to carpool him and the rest of the band to their gigs. It seems parental support is crucial to punk rock success.

Go to episode 22

DJ Shadow

This week Jim and Greg are joined by John Davis, otherwise known as DJ Shadow. For listeners not familiar with DJ Shadow, he is an innovative and experimental hip-hop producer with an ability to infuse other music genres, sounds and samples into his work. For many, his album Entroducing is one of the landmark works of the last decade. His recent album The Outsider was not received as well. (Check out Jim and Greg's review). Our hosts ask Shadow about the scrutiny and why he chose to compose an album on his own instead of emphasizing samples. Fans, even those who were disheartened by The Outsider, will appreciate his desire to stretch himself and make something completely new.

As mentioned above, The Outsider put more of the focus on guest vocalists and rappers than on samples. But with the current state of the music industry, Sound Opinions can't blame him. Greg asks the DJ what it was like to make music in the post-Paul's Boutique era, when copyright laws are making life more difficult for sample-based musicians. DJ Shadow explains that for him, using other people's music is both a way to be nostalgic and a way to call attention to music that people wouldn't hear otherwise. For more insight into copyright and copyright culture, check out Jim and Greg's interview with legal expert Lawrence Lessig.

Go to episode 50
dijs

Greg

“Eggman”The Beastie Boys

Greg's DIJ selection this week was inspired by his discussion with Professor Lawrence Lessig. Thinking about fair use, free culture and digital copyright law got this rock critic downright nostalgic for the days when great art was made using other people's art. "Eggman" by The Beastie Boys is a perfect example of this. The song was released on Paul's Boutique, the hip hop trio's follow-up to their successful, albeit frat boy-ish, debut License to Ill. The group linked up with production team The Dust Brothers to create a sonic collage of samples, beats, loops and raps. In“Eggman”alone, astute listeners can hear parts of the songs "Superfly" and "Bring the Noise," bits of dialogue from Taxi Driver and E.T., as well as the film scores to Jaws and Psycho. Sadly, shortly following the release of Paul's Boutique, a series of lawsuits made sampling on this level too risky and too cost-prohibitive. Listening to“Eggman”is enough to send a music fan into mourning. Thankfully the Desert Island Jukebox will keep it safe for posterity.

Go to episode 134

Greg

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night”Nirvana

Greg wraps up the show by picking a classic MTV moment for the Desert Island Jukebox. He highlights "Where Did You Sleep Last Night," which Nirvana performed live as part of MTV's Unplugged series. If Greg had to choose a single performance by the band, it would be this one. The late Kurt Cobain pours his heart and soul into it, and the band's backing is incredibly empathetic. Of course, Cobain did not pen this tune. It was originally recorded as "In the Pines" in the late 1930s, and Jim and Greg discussed its evolution as part of a conversation with cyberlaw and free culture guru Lawrence Lessig.

Go to episode 36