Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Sony strong-arms Beatallica

Last week I was downloading a bunch of MP3s off a little place called Usenet and one of the things I saw was something called Beatallica. I had no idea what it was, but I added it to my queue and went back to watching the cast commentary on the extended cut of the Return of the King. (Yes, I stipulate the dorkiness of my life.)

A week or so later I went back to the downloads folder and added all the files to my iTunes (total count: 11,273 as of last night), and I had to listen to a few of them, natch. I gave Beatallica a whirl (virtual whirl?) and it turned out to be Beatles and Metallica mash-ups. But performed with real instruments, not mixed like mash-ups usually are. It's like Metallica covering Beatles songs, but sort of melding together the lyrics. Or a Beatles cover band playing in the style of Metallica. In fact, upon first listen, I wondered if I'd stumbled upon some rare Metallica recordings, the singer sounds that much like James Hetfield, and the renditions are that Metallica-like. It's really quite astonishing.

Doing a little research, I discovered that Beatallica is a real band, they've been described as something of an Internet sensation, and that their popular website has just been shut down by Sony's heavy-handed lawyers, who approached Beatallica's ISP and webmaster with a fistful of cease-and-desists.

As if the music community or the fans needed another reason to hate the music industry, the overzealous stiff collars at Sony, which owns the rights to a lot of the Beatles catalog, are either to stupid or greedy (or both) to comprehend that parody and satire, not to mention cover versions of songs, are protected under the U.S. Constitution. This has been tested many times in the past by lawyers, and the Supreme Court has always upheld the right of one band to cover another band's material, not to mention the right for artists to skewer other artists with parody.

Anyway, the music's actually exceptionally good, the lyrics are smart and funny, and the latest buzz is that Lars Ulrich contacted Beatallica to say he supports them and would talk to Sony about the whole uproar. Learn more about the Beatallica in these interviews, here and here.

Meantime, if you're a fan of artists' rights and that Constitution thing, please use the online petition to tell Sony to drop dead.

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