I’d like to tell you more about that Gin Blossoms concert I went to over the weekend, in part because it relates to Justin’s copyright/Pauly Shore post from yesterday.
Early in the concert, the Gin Blossoms’ lead singer, Robin Wilson, saw someone with a cell phone, and took it from the person. While Scott Johnson was doing a guitar solo, Wilson was scrutinizing the cell phone closely. We guessed that he was scrolling through the recently dialed numbers. By the time it was time for him to start singing again, he had the phone to his ear, and was holding the microphone in the other hand. He was singing to someone at the other end of the phone.
It was around 11 p.m. (2 a.m. on the East Coast), so the people on the other end of the line may not have been pleased. Then again, it may have been a great experience for them, if they were 1) awake, 2) Gin Blossoms fans, and 3) aware of what was happening.
Pretty soon, several other people were handing him their cell phones so that he’d sing to their friends. Most of them did the dialing themselves and then gave him the phone, so that there were willing participants on the other end.
I was close enough to do this myself, but didn’t. My daughter loves the band, and if it had been early enough, it would have been fun to do. But she was asleep, and I couldn’t think of anyone I wanted to call.
1) Let’s say, hypothetically, that in that first phone call, Robin Wilson didn’t reach a live person, but rather an answering machine. Would it violate copyright to retain the song on the answering machine? Would it violate copyright to post the song on the Internet? What about sharing it with others? What about selling it — assuming someone would want to buy such a low-quality version? Remember: Robin Wilson dialed the number himself, and left the message himself.
2) Does the answer change if someone else dialed the number and gave him the phone? What if they deliberately dialed a number that went to voice mail, for the purpose of recording the song — but he voluntarily sang into the phone?
3) What if someone simply dialed a number with voice mail from in front of the stage, and recorded the song that way? In other words, does it make a difference if Wilson didn’t sing directly into the phone? What if he wasn’t doing this schtick at all, with anyone’s phone — but an audience member still dialed voice mail to record the song?
4) If someone had cameraphone pictures of Robin Wilson doing this, would they violate some law by posting them on the Internet? Would such a person have violated some law by taking the pictures to begin with? If the venue had a rule against cameras, would that change the answer as to the legality of posting the pictures on the Internet? What about video from the phone? After all, the venue presumably doesn’t even arguably own any copyright.
Comments are open.
P.S. I didn’t get a chance to go on about this at the concert, but the first opening band was excellent. They are called “Let Go” and their web site is here. I bought their CD and I love it. It’s what Green Day might sound like if they wrote better and more interesting songs. If you do the iTunes thing, their download page is here. I recommend track #10, titled “Somewhere.”