I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: what Danger Mouse often lacks in his half-assed, undercooked, soft-boiled, or hit-or-miss collaborations (Cee-lo, Beck Hansen, The Black Keys, and Mark Linkous have suspiciously all cut better records before the “Grey Album Guy” stepped in to add his... signature sound... of... what, exactly? More vintage drums, I think.), he more than makes up for with his awesomely crass, anti-industry skullduggery! Besides, when you think about it, it’s really the “Shock-And-Awe” factor that Mr. Mouse is going for with these “unique artist pairings,” and this same “bitch, what’s my name!?” vibe is what gives him the cred as he needs to write the next chapter in the choose-your-own-adventure novel that is 21st century music distribution, once again flaunting the fact that it's the fans, not record labels like EMI, who have the upper hand in the digital age.
See, Danger Mouse has been working on a collection called Dark Night of the Soul, an album-length piece of music by Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse, and a host of guest vocalists, along with a collection of original David Lynch photography inspired by and based on the music. Sweet, right? (2009 is, after all, the year of the comp, so I’d say his timing is right on.) Well, apparently, relations with EMI on the project have, um, broken down like a James Brown middle-8, and the long and short of it is that EMI is kinda sorta refusing to release the music. Now, if you’re Danger Mouse, the guy who’s literally FAMOUS for being a copyright-law flaunting, industry decrying, music pirate, what DO you do, I wonder?
No brainer, you release the photographs, which provide a visual narrative for the music, compiled in a limited-edition, hand-numbered 100+ page book; and you package that with, yup, a blank, recordable CD-R. All copies will be clearly labeled: "For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will." And I’m sure I don’t need to mention that the music leaked on P2P networks over two weeks ago and is currently available as an on-demand from NPR. Sha-booz-baz! Take that, EMI!
But wait! “Sounds Illegal,” you say? Well, if EMI owns the copyright to the sound recordings that make up Dark Night (which, come on now, it probably does, being a Major Label and all), then yes, this could perhaps be construed as “inducing” copyright infringement. But as EFF has pointed out, there’s an interesting little wrinkle in copyright law that might-could step in and work to Danger Mouse’s (and our) favor -- if the blank CD-R is a royalty-paid "music CD-R," then the copies made by fans (whether made from NPR or P2P) would be legal under 17 U.S.C. 1008, which provides that no infringement lawsuit may be "based on the noncommercial use by a consumer of [a digital audio recording] medium for making digital musical recordings." Digital audio recording medium (DARM) is defined to include "music CD-Rs" on which a royalty is paid to copyright owners.
Damn, Danger Mouse! That’s some Legally Blond shit, right there.