I received email overnight from an attorney representing EMI, who threatened legal action against me if I posted the Grey Album on my site as part of the Grey Tuesday protest action. A quote:

Distribution of The Grey Album constitutes a serious violation of Capitol’s rights in the Capitol Recordings – as well as the valuable intellectual property rights of other artists, music publishers, and/or record companies – and will subject you to serious legal remedies for willful violation of the laws. We accordingly demand that you cease any plans or efforts to distribute or publicly perform this unlawful recording.

I have considered this, and have decided not to post the songs. I simply cannot afford to defend myself in a legal action in the U.S. Maybe if I knew that the Electronic Frontier Foundation or the Berkman Center for Internet and Society were willing to defend me, that might change things. I might feel a little less like one tiny, insignificant blogger being threatened by a team of lawyers bankrolled by the record industry.

What hasn’t changed is my strong opposition to the thumb-fisted way EMI has handled the whole issue of sample clearance in regard to DJ Danger Mouse’s Grey Album. And by sending me a cease and desist letter, they may have won the battle in getting me to refrain from taking part in the Grey Tuesday action, but they have lost the war. They’ve made an enemy in me.

Luckily there are braver souls out there with the bandwidth and the wherewithal to host the Grey Album. Even here in the Czech Republic, blogger Blueskin has the files up on his site.

At the same time, I feel bad about caving in. But now I’m getting at least a closer understanding how it must have felt to want to sign a document like Charter 77, fully knowing that a system completely tilted against you was ready to pounce if you did support the protesters, or god forbid if you signed it yourself.

When I came to Prague way back when, one of the great questions in my mind was: How could so many people not speak out on behalf of the dissidents? How could they be so silent?

What I’m finding out now is that when it comes to ethics, especially when the personal meets the political, there is no black and white. Only shades of grey.

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