An artist / collective famous for hilariously butchering famous tracks has just suckered several news outlets into publishing a textbook "copyright fail" story. D.J. Detweiler, whose work has to be heard to be believed, implied that Soundcloud claimed copyright infringement on a 'remix' of a famous silent track. In fact it was a carefully orchestrated stunt.
Considering the amount of publicity a wrongful DMCA notice can generate these days, it’s no surprise that when a gift of a story presents itself, people are happy to jump on board.
Unfortunately, however, some stories are more complex than they first appear and when that complexity is borne out of a deliberate desire to mislead, chaos is bound to ensue.
On November 25 a tantalizing piece appeared in Electronic Beats detailing how in an apparent desire to protect copyright, Soundcloud had finally gone too far. A follow-up piece from YourEDM put meat on the bones.
“Just when you thought Soundcloud couldn’t get any worse, they strike again harder than ever. Now reaching an all time low, Soundcloud has removed a track that is nothing but 4 minutes of pure silence due to ‘Copyright Infringement’ claims,” it declared.
The piece was uploaded to an account operated by D.J. Detweiler and consisted of a remix (if one could ever be possible) of the John Cage ‘track’ 4’33”, a famous performance consisting of nothing but silence.
“That’s right, a song that has literally no sound was flagged for removal. How? Because Soundcloud is lazy and takes shortcuts to flag and remove content,” the YourEDM piece continued.
“Instead of crawling the uploaded content for copyright material, which takes a decent amount of CPU power, Soundcloud has resorted into cutting that process out entirely and beginning to flag content based on JUST the track title.”
As recipes for outrage go, this was an absolute doozy and no wonder it was picked up by several publications in the days that followed. However, as is now becoming painfully obvious, the whole thing was a giant stunt. A statement from Soundcloud obtained by Engadget revealed the cringe-worthy truth.
“The upload referenced in the screenshot was not a track of silence and was taken down because it included Justin Bieber’s What Do You Mean without the rightsholder’s permission,” the company said.
“The respective user uploaded the track under the title “4’33”,” which is also the name of John Cage’s famous piece of silence but it was not, in fact, silence.”
So what were D.J. Detweiler’s aims? Well, trolling the press appears to be one. In a biting follow-up amid several retweets of regurgitated articles on the same topic, D.J. Detweiler posted the following image.
Another aim appears to be recreating the work of Cage to prove a point. Although Cage’s track 4’33” was supposed to be silent, ‘performers’ are expected to be present but not play. Unless done so in a vacuum, the resulting ‘performance’ therefore includes ambient noise. Equally, it appears that D.J. Detweiler’s ‘silence’ is now intentionally causing noise around the Internet too.
“We are making a remix of the original performance of John Cage. The only different thing is that we are making it on the internet in 2015, instead of doing it in a space like a theater, like John Cage did. The whole environment around what we’re doing is the performance because everybody’s reacting.”
But trolling and frivolity aside, it does appear that DJ Detweiler have a copyright message to deliver.
“When John Cage wrote that piece, one of the main reasons was because he was trying to ask, who owns the silence? Who has the copyright for the silence?” they ask. “The laws surrounding copyright at this point seem highly outdated and need some sort of reformation, and we just want to push that.”
While the group have certainly achieved their aims, it’s perhaps a bit of a shame that’s been achieved at the expense of publications who mainly appeared to have sympathy with often overreaching copyright law.
That being said, when one looks at DJ Detweiler’s Facebook and homepages (epilepsy warning!), the value of doing more research really starts to pay off.
DJ Detweiler are taking part in a panel discussion about “branding, hype and trends” this Thursday at the 3hd Festival in Berlin. He’s described as an individual there but at this point, who knows?
In the meantime enjoy his/their remix of Sandstorm, Smack My Bitch Up, and my personal favorite, DJ Hazard’s Mr Happy.