Definitely Not Fair Use

An interesting (and sad) story is developing around some piano recordings of Joyce Hatto. Although most copyright gurus today rightfully protest the sometimes absurd expansion of copyright and intellectual property laws, I don’t think anyone would support someone’s re-recording entire classic piano performances, putting their own name on them, and selling them, which is apparently what Hatto’s husband did.

It’s being called the biggest scandal ever in classical music. There are some interesting ironies, such as the fact that digital technology was used to in making and altering slightly some of the recordings, but ultimately it was through technology (iTunes) that the hoax was discovered.

David Hurwitz ( contends that this is a victimless crime and that the original recording artists will actually benefit from the hoax because now people will go out and buy the original recordings.

Maybe. But isn’t truth the real victim here? Isn’t putting your name on a creative product that is not yours a clear example of where we don’t want to go in the new world of digital technology and copyright?

One thought on “Definitely Not Fair Use”

  1. The technology that caused the hoax discovery was really Gracenote, and is the same technology used by competing CD “discovery” databases–that is, they identify CDs by the length of each track, since CDs don’t have machine-readable IDs. It’s highly unlikely that any two CDs would have tracks of exactly the same length (down to 44/1000th of a second). Most ripping programs (including Windows Media) use either Gracenote or a competitor; that includes iTunes.

    I agree with the main point–while the story may be sort of sad, it’s also flagrant plagiarism.

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