November 23, 2006

Protect Intellectual Property from Its Owner

by PG

So I know about the line of cases regarding physical property that winds up with Kelo, and I heard about Monsanto's application of the Takings Clause to trade secrets, but there's one more thing I need the government's power under the 5th Amendment to do for me: stop the owners of pop song lyrics from selling said lyrics to contemporary country musicians. Rascal Flatts' version of "Life Is a Highway" was bad enough -- the N'Sync of Nashville claiming "We won't hesitate/ To break down the garden gate" is a sugary insult to Tom Cochrane's rough-toned original. Then I heard Lonestar sing "Walking in Memphis."

There are people who could redo "Life Is a Highway"; Chris LeDoux's take wasn't bad. But no one should mess with Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis," especially not the squeaky clean country stars of today. I could have believed Johnny Cash or even Willie Nelson responding to the question, “Tell me are you a Christian, child?” with “Ma’am, I am tonight.” Is there any night the current members of Lonestar wouldn't respond to that query with "Yes'm, and twice on Sundays"? (I know Cher also covered "Walking in Memphis," but she had the decency to release it only to foreigners. Maybe that's like the reverse of the many government regulations that limit companies' ability to license intellectual property to foreign nations -- it may not be safe for China to know the secrets of the Playstation 2, and only Europe can safely hear Cher.)

Surely the United States has a duty to protect its citizens from the desecration of their audio memories. If I see someone burn a flag, that only reinforces my own commitment to honoring our nation. If I hear a gelled Justin Timberlake wannabe with a steel guitar singing one of the biggest hits of my adolescence, I never can feel the same way about the song again. Maybe the songwriters needed the money generated by licensing out their lyrics, but for less than a tax dollar a day, each of us can preserve our recollection of the early 1990s. New London is trying to kick people out of their homes for the sake of an increased tax base; can't the federal government give just compensation for the sake of a VH1 series?

November 23, 2006 12:26 AM | TrackBack
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