I saw this coming when I first read about DJ Danger Mouse mixing Jay-Z’s Black Album with the Beatles’ White Album to produce the Grey Album:
DJ Danger Mouse’s recent Grey Album […] has been hailed as a innovative hip-hop triumph. Despite that and the fact that only 3,000 copies of the album are in circulation, EMI sent cease and desist letters yesterday to Danger Mouse and the handful of stores that were selling the album, demanding that the album be destroyed.
When Michael Jackson bought the rights to the Beatles’ songs, it came with the stipulation that they couldn’t be licensed for rap songs. MJ even got sued because of this when PM Dawn released “Norwegian Wood”, which wasn’t even really a rap. I don’t know how that case ended (it was a number of years back).
My feeling on this matter is that giving a limited monopoly to creators is a good incentive to produce. However, this monopoly lasts way too long. If copyright was taken back to what the founders of our country had intended, the Beatle’s songs would all be public domain now and DJ Danger Mouse’s album would be perfectly legal (as long as Jay-Z was fine with it, since his work is new). 28 years is certainly a long enough time for creators to be compensated for their work. Does anyone dispute that the Beatles made some dandy money in those first 28 years?
Copyright gives creators a temporary monopoly. For someone to own an intellectual creation permanently is to stifle all creativity that follows.