Can you send out a cease & desist letter to someone who has just stated the intention of doing something, but hasn't actually done it yet? I'll let the lawyers handle that one. In the meantime, if you haven't been keeping up on the whole "Grey Album" debate, here's the quick summary. Sometime last year, the musician Jay-Z put out an album called "The Black Album" which has done quite well. A few decades back the Beatles (you might have heard of them) put out "The White Album" which is still considered a classic album. A DJ recently took the vocals from The Black Album (which had been released without instruments for the sole purpose of letting DJs mix it with other music) and put it to music from The White Album, thus producing... "The Grey Album". People say that, as odd as you might think the combination is, it's actually amazingly good. Not everyone was so impressed, however. EMI, who controls the Beatles music, started sending around cease & desist letters to anyone who was posting MP3s online and to anyone selling physical copies of the album (there were a bunch on eBay). Someone then came up with the idea of "Grey Tuesday" where a bunch of sites would all post the tracks from the album on Tuesday, February 24th. The folks at Capitol Records can use the internet as well, and learned all about this and have sent off cease & desist letters to sites that have said they'll participate, even though they hadn't done anything yet. The letter goes particularly far in its demands, saying the sites need to inform them who sent them a physical copy of the album and to tell Capitol Records about anyone who downloaded the album. The folks who organized the event have written back, saying they believe they are well within their fair use rights and will refuse to back down. They point out that if this goes to court (and they have no problem taking it to court from their end) it will just get this matter a lot more attention. If anything, it sounds like they're begging Capitol to go after them so this issue becomes bigger and can be a catalyst for real copyright reform. That seems like a pretty risky strategy, but I admire them for pushing forward with it. As many people have pointed out, the point of copyright is to encourage creativity - and this episode has shown how it's being used to stifle creativity instead. I'm sure you'll be able to find updates at GreyTuesday.org.
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