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Grey Tuesday goes on despite EMI protest

Your price-fixing check is in the mail

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As promised, Downhill Battle went ahead with its Grey Tuesday protest against EMI, providing links to hundreds of sites making DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album available for download.

The album mixes Jay-Z's Black Album with the Beatles' White Album much to EMI's displeasure. EMI distributes Beatles' music and has sent cease and desist orders to DJ Danger Mouse, stores and now the Web sites looking to distribute the music. Ignoring these requests, anti-RIAA activists at Downhill Battle collected a long list of Web sites willing to put the music up for free.

"Despite your letter, Downhill Battle will be posting the Grey Album on our website tomorrow," the Web site wrote in a message to EMI. "Your efforts to suppress this music stifle creativity and harm the public interest; we will not be intimidated into backing down. Downhill Battle has a fair-use right to post this music under current copyright law and the public has a fair-use right to hear it. Opposing EMI’s censorship campaign is precisely the purpose of Tuesday’s protest and we won’t waver from that goal."

A few of Downhill Battle's coconspirators did seem to back down with EMI circling. One Web site simply posted a track list for the Grey Album instead of actually putting songs up. But for the most part, it looks like a far reaching download system is on the go. So, for at least one day, a group of music fans fought the law, and the law didn't win. Maybe Green Day can write their own song about that. They are punk rebels, you know.

The Register asked our Chicago office neighbor to play the album, so we could hear it first hand and see what all the fuss is about. But to avoid any legal conflicts, our ears were covered with pirated music shields, and we pretended the whole thing wasn't happening. Once done with all the tracks, we shared a high colonic with our neighbor, while complaining about gay marriage. It seemed like the right thing to do.

EMI has every right to protect its intellectual property, but there are serious questions around what is the proper guarding of something old and what is simply a stubborn stopping of a new creation. The protesters clearly argue that DJ Danger Mouse has created something that EMI could profit from, if the company would just sell the music.

An interesting backdrop to the whole affair comes from the word this week that more than three million consumers will receive refund checks from the recording industry as part of a price-fixing settlement. The record labels have been hit time and again with price-fixing charges, and consumers will receive $13.86 checks as payment for past wrongs.

Peer-to-peer sites - not price-fixing, suing customers, a bad economy and blocking music - are clearly to blame for a slump in record sales. ®

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