Skinny Puppy Invoices US Government After It Played The Band's Music To Torture Gitmo Prisoners [Updated]

from the but-was-it-paid? dept

A few years ago, after stories started appearing about the US military playing loud music to annoy prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, we were among those who wondered if the government paid royalties on those "public performances." We weren't the only ones, as at least some musicians who were on the playlist wondered out loud if they were getting royalties -- while, actually, being a lot more concerned about the whole situation, both the torture and the idea that their music was used as torture. Now, in a recent issue of the Phoenix New Times, in which they interviewed the band Skinny Puppy about its latest album, the band's founder explains that the name for the new album came from hearing that their music was being played at Gitmo, but also notes that they sent an invoice to the US government:
"We heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people," founder cEvin Key explains by phone from his Los Angeles home. "We heard that our music was used on at least four occasions. So we thought it would be a good idea to make an invoice to the U.S. government for musical services, thus the concept of the record title, Weapons."
The wording there is a little strange, as it may be that the album is a metaphorical invoice, but it would be fascinating to find out if an actual invoice was ever sent... and if it was paid. Oh, and, no the band wasn't happy about all of this:
"Not too good," Key continues. "We never supported those types of scenarios. ... Because we make unsettling music, we can see it being used in a weird way. But it doesn't sit right with us."
Update: Aha. Via Jason Leopold, here's the actual invoice for $666,000.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Ragnarredbeard, 5 Feb 2014 @ 9:11am

    Reminds me of survival school

    When I went to USAF Survival School they played really bad metal and prog music 24/7 in the cells. Wonder if they permission to do that from the rights holders?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2014 @ 9:16am

    Where is the RIAA?

    Why aren't they screaming at the government to collect their performance royalties?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2014 @ 9:17am

    I bet they also played Justin Bieber. Oh, and inb4 blue shoots his mouth off about copyright.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    scotts13 (profile), 5 Feb 2014 @ 9:19am

    Tomorrows news:

    "Copyright to awful torture music seized by Federal government under bizarre interpretation of eminent domain."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2014 @ 9:33am

      Re: Tomorrows news:

      Scotts: That's actually prohibited by copyright law. And under eminent domain they'd still have to pay them anyway.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        scotts13 (profile), 5 Feb 2014 @ 10:23am

        Re: Re: Tomorrows news:

        "That's actually prohibited by copyright law. And under eminent domain they'd still have to pay them anyway."

        Well yes, under TODAY'S interpretation of the law. Tomorrow?

        Point is, I'm quite sure it never occurred to whatever agency runs that prison that they might have to obey every little law and regulation - let alone performance rights.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    zip, 5 Feb 2014 @ 9:22am

    ASCAP and BMI only demand royalties for "public performance" - but the common Guantanamo practice of forcing headphones (turned up to earsplitting volume) on a hog-tied prisoner until he *breaks* is probably considered "private listening" so therefore no *songwriter* rights were violated.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 5 Feb 2014 @ 9:54am

      Re:

      So if I run a bar and give everyone headphones to listen to the music through, I wouldn't have to pay performance royalties? Somehow, I doubt that ASCAP or BMI would agree with that notion.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2014 @ 10:23am

        Re: Re:

        Considering the Cablevision ruling, I thought the decision hinged on who had control of playing the content not how many people experienced it, and as the person wearing the headphones has no control over playing the content, it should qualify as a performance even if it's a performance for one.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      DADTAXI, 6 Feb 2014 @ 2:34am

      Re:

      However prisoners didnít 'buy' the music much as i donít 'buy' elevator music, - a cruel and unusual punishment in itself

      so if you play music to someone else ( even in a private residence, and by any interpretation a torture cell is a private place) is that not a public performance - by ASCAP and BMI 's own rules?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), 5 Feb 2014 @ 9:32am

    Never heard of this group, was curious, found some musing on YouTube.

    The moment it started playing, my dog (who is always sleeping next to my feet when I'm at my desk) left the room. Go figure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2014 @ 11:50am

      Re:

      Do you agree with your dogs opinion of the music, that it is unlistenable? ;-)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), 5 Feb 2014 @ 12:43pm

        Re: Re:

        I don't want to be an asshole to SP's fans, I'm not in a position to dictate my music tastes to them. Let's say It's not my thing (and, apparently, not my dog's either). ;)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MondoGordo (profile), 5 Feb 2014 @ 9:54am

    I once actually owned ...

    a Skinny Puppy T-shirt from the Too Dark Park tour in the early 90's. I may still have it ...

    But yeah their sound is dissonant and disturbing to say the least ... not surprised it's been used to torture people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Karl (profile), 5 Feb 2014 @ 11:35am

      Re: I once actually owned ...

      he Too Dark Park tour in the early 90's

      I actually went to one of the shows on that tour, the one in Cincinnati. They certainly put on one hell of a show.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        kyle clements (profile), 5 Feb 2014 @ 5:37pm

        Re: Re: I once actually owned ...

        I'm seeing them in two weeks.

        After 30 years (1982-2014) these guys are still going at it.

        I read another interview that they never actually sent the invoice, but it was the idea that inspired their latest album, "Weapon".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 5 Feb 2014 @ 10:20am

    Updated...

    updated with the actual invoice!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wally (profile), 5 Feb 2014 @ 10:31am

    Ok now I'm not happy

    For those who have never heard any sings by Skinny Puppy...if you had the CD-ROM version of Interplay and Paralax Software's Descent II....the song that has a part where a woman is screaming as if she were being raped...the one from the second level of the first chapter...that is a song by Skinny Puppy...Many of you have no idea how unsettling that sound really is...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2014 @ 10:56am

    "We can see it being used in a weird way. But it doesn't sit right with us."
    If they find this use of their music unsettling, like their music, does that imply that it is their kind of use?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    s7, 5 Feb 2014 @ 11:54am

    As a huge fan of Skinny Puppy since about 86' I find this whole thing hilarious.

    It's also nice to know that I'd be immune to their torture.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gabriel J. Michael (profile), 5 Feb 2014 @ 12:22pm

    Publicity stunt. Probably nothing owed.

    Why are we assuming this qualifies as a "public performance"? The MPAA claims that prisons require a public performance license, but that's probably your classic prison movie showing situation. If they're blasting music at one or two detainees in Gitmo, that's not a public performance, and no license is required. If they're using headphones, as one commenter above suggested, should be an open-and-shut defense.

    If they actually want to sue, the hurdles are higher for suing the federal government for infringement than private parties. And they'll be limited to minimum statutory damages.

    Obviously they can object to whatever they want, but copyright is not a tool to silence all uses you disagree with. We might not like the use, but this is borderline copyright abuse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      beltorak (profile), 5 Feb 2014 @ 1:34pm

      Re: Publicity stunt. Probably nothing owed.

      as much as i like the story, you are probably right. the government could just claim that this was a private performance for a few "close acquaintances" and therefore covered under fair use.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2014 @ 9:04pm

        Re: Re: Publicity stunt. Probably nothing owed.

        If they can claim performance rights for playing music to horses, then surely prisoners of the US government count

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bjr70 (profile), 5 Feb 2014 @ 12:59pm

    Just wanted to check in as another huge Skinny Puppy fan. This makes me love them just a little bit more. I'll be seeing them again this month. I can't flippin' wait.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2014 @ 2:40pm

    Stepping on the wrong toes.

    I wonder if the band members will find themselves on a no-fly list now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    fred, 5 Feb 2014 @ 7:57pm

    Techdirt, used to promote has been punk bands. They pretty much sucked you in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2014 @ 8:17pm

    but, but FAIR USE !!! (or are we supporting copyright now?)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2014 @ 8:37pm

    I don't think Guantanamo is a member of the Berne Convention. APB

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.