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 (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Ragnarredbeard, Feb 5th, 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?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 9:16am

    Where is the RIAA?

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

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 9:17am

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

     

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  4.  
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    scotts13 (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 9:19am

    Tomorrows news:

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

     

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  5.  
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    zip, Feb 5th, 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.

     

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  6.  
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    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), Feb 5th, 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.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 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.

     

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  8.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 5th, 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.

     

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  9.  
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    MondoGordo (profile), Feb 5th, 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.

     

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  10.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 10:20am

    Updated...

    updated with the actual invoice!

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 10:22am

    Re: Updated...

    666k? Interesting, considering the music was used for torture.

     

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  12.  
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    scotts13 (profile), Feb 5th, 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.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 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.

     

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  14.  
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    Wally (profile), Feb 5th, 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...

     

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  15.  
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    justok (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 10:56am

    Re: Where is the RIAA?

    Well, they are, but they call it singing

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 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?

     

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  17.  
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    Karl (profile), Feb 5th, 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.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:50am

    Re:

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

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    s7, Feb 5th, 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.

     

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  20.  
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    Gabriel J. Michael (profile), Feb 5th, 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.

     

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  21.  
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    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), Feb 5th, 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). ;)

     

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  22.  
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    bjr70 (profile), Feb 5th, 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.

     

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  23.  
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    beltorak (profile), Feb 5th, 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.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 2:40pm

    Stepping on the wrong toes.

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

     

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  25.  
    icon
    Sunhawk (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 3:44pm

    Re: Stepping on the wrong toes.

    There's probably a lawyer or two salivating over the possibility...

     

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  26.  
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    kyle clements (profile), Feb 5th, 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".

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    fred, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 7:57pm

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

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 8:17pm

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

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 8:37pm

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

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 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

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 10:33pm

    Re:

    They aren't a punk band. Fail.

     

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  32.  
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    techflaws (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 10:58pm

    Re:

    They did some nice tracks for the Descent 2 soundtrack.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    DADTAXI, Feb 6th, 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?

     

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  34.  
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    Ninja (profile), Feb 6th, 2014 @ 4:19am

    Re: Re: Updated...

    Sounds like they are mocking the Govt and engaging in some activism. Which seems great!

     

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  35.  
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    btrussell (profile), Feb 6th, 2014 @ 5:46am

    Re: Re: Updated...

    4 songs
    $150K per song

    $66K for lawyer to send notice.

     

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  36.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Feb 6th, 2014 @ 5:49am

    Re:

    Fair use is part of copyright.

    Or tell you what, you abolish copyright and we will do the same for fair use.

     

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

  37.  
    identicon
    smilmsers, Feb 7th, 2014 @ 12:58pm

    Re: Reminds me of survival school

    USAF survival school, huh? Was this between the massages and triple lattes?

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Clownius, Feb 10th, 2014 @ 6:55am

    Re: Where is the RIAA?

    You forget there seems to be some things that trumps "but piracy" and "but terrorism" is one of them as is "think of the children"

     

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


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