– I figured out that it was my friend Todd who originally told me about John Cage a year or two ago and that a musician had created a silent musical piece of his own and had written a credit homage to John Cage in the liner notes – to which John Cage responded by suing the other musician – here is an article that was posted about the lawsuit:
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The silent musical works at the centre of a bizarre copyright dispute have been performed in sequence in London.
Wombles creator Mike Batt has been accused of infringing the copyright of American minimalist composer John Cage, after placing a one-minute silence on his latest CD – and saying it was a Mike Batt composition.
It’s a gentlemanly dispute – but there is money involved
On Wednesday morning Batt’s A Minute’s Silence was played alongside Cage’s famous 1952 work 4’33”, which consists of four minutes and 33 seconds of silence, at Baden Powell House in central London.
Cage’s publisher Peters Edition and Batt hoped it would clarify the differences between the works.
Marc Dooley, who performed 4’33” on clarinet, told BBC News Online that he felt he “performed it properly”.
“I did do a run through beforehand, to make sure I knew what the experience was like.
“Four-and-a-half minutes is quite a long time to be performing like that – or not performing,” he said.
But he added that, despite discussions after the works had been played, the dispute was still unresolved.
Batt, who conducted A Minute’s Silence on Wednesday, told BBC Radio 4’s Front Row the idea of the track was to separate some acoustic arrangements from rockier material on the CD Classical Graffiti by his group The Planets.
“I thought for my own amusement it would be funny to call it something so I called it A Minute’s Silence and credited it as track 13 and put my name as Batt/Cage, as a tongue-in-cheek dig at the John Cage piece,” he said.
After the record was released, he was contacted by Peters Edition who said he had infringed its copyright – and Cage’s publisher was claiming a quarter of the royalties from the track.
The Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) has so far supported the American composer’s case – because, it says, the track was originally registered in his name.
“When the record company registered the track with the MCPS it was credited to Mike Batt and John Cage, so royalties would have been due to John Cage,” a spokesman told BBC News Online.
“Only since has he come back to us and asked us to re-register it as Clint Cage, his pseudonym.”
The argument will be there is no work because there are no notes
Duncan Lamont, music lawyer
Batt is adamant that his silence is an original work: “I certainly wasn’t quoting his silence. I claim my silence is original silence,” he told Front Row.
In any case, under English law it is unlikely the copyright in Cage’s could be protected as it involves no actual notes, according to a music industry lawyer.
Lawyer Duncan Lamont told Front Row the question was “Is it a work?”
“Has it been written down, is it a literary, artistic or dramatic work? The argument will be there is no work because there are no notes.”
Mr Lamont added that Batt’s defence that the track is a joke is not a defence in English law, though the defence of parody would be a different matter.
Batt said that so far the argument had not become too serious – but this could change.
“This is not an angry dispute – it’s a gentlemanly dispute. But there is money involved,” he said.