Recent developments coming to light regarding the use of music in torture by the CIA in Guantanamo indicated that Canadian industrial band Skinny Puppy’s music was one of the artists whose music was being used. As a semi-serious response, Skinny Puppy has since invoiced the Federal Government for $666,000 for the use of their music without permission or licensing from the group and is considering a lawsuit.
Skinny Puppy’s self-described “unsettling” music being used in torture was not surprising to them, but they were not very happy about it. It is interesting given the group’s history as well. Skinny Puppy has been a long-time proponent for animal rights and against animal dissection and other practices that Skinny Puppy considers akin to torture of animals.
While there have been numerous reports over the years of different music from Metallica to Sesame Street being used in such ways, nobody has appeared to try and take legal action for it yet. Nevertheless, it would likely end up being a long and unsuccessful road trying to fight the Federal Government against these practices.
Owners of copyrights have the exclusive rights to all of the following under 17 U.S.C. § 106, and if you do one of the following without being an owner then it would classify as copyright infringement:
(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;
(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and
(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
Since there is no evidence the government copied or distributed Skinny Puppy’s music, it looks like the big question is whether or not using the music in a prison in Cuba would constitute a “public performance” under the law or if the government is otherwise protected in its use. It will be interesting to see how much further this action goes.
If you have questions about copyright or other intellectual property rights for your music or business, contact the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Lawyer, Elizabeth Lewis, 720-258-6647 or email her at Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com.