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Newport State Of Mind: why has it been removed?

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James McLaren James McLaren | 12:10 UK time, Tuesday, 10 August 2010

YouTube has been forced to remove Newport (Ymerodraeth State Of Mind) from its servers due to a copyright claim by EMI Music Publishing Ltd.

For the time being, at least, Goldie Lookin' Chain's response, You're Not From Newport, is still available on the site, as is a performance at the Transporter Bridge (warning: links contain strong language).

I have thought since this video first came to light that there was a certain legal ambiguity to the song and its lyrics. While straight cover versions are entirely legal (as long as properly credited) and a staple of the music business from the very top to the very bottom, interpretations of existing songs are a different matter altogether.

'Substantial rewrite' is a pseudo-legal term in the music industry meaning that when you're covering a song or using an element of a song - whether lyrically or musically - it requires the permission of the original copyright holder.

This can be a complex process: you get in touch with the Performing Right Society, the organisation responsible for the administration of song copyrights (music and lyrics, but not recording) in the UK. The PRS works with their relevant partner organisations across the world (in the USA it's ASCAP and the BMI), who then find out from the relevant publisher whether the songwriter is amenable to the rewrite.

Obviously this laborious process means that the vast majority of rewrites, pastiches and spoofs are ignored or simply never heard about. There's a certain level of publish-and-be-damned to it; who cares when you're playing to 50 people in a club?

But the power of the internet means that something can blow up - go viral, if you prefer an awful expression - and suddenly who can turn a blind eye to it? Two and a half million YouTube hits meant that the publishers of the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' original almost had no choice but to knock it on the head.

Jemima Kiss in The Guardian wrote, "OK, it's a rip-off of the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys song. But it has a significant amount of original work, video, rewritten lyrics and a good concept. Isn't that fair use?"

However, the fact that it does have original work and rewritten lyrics, plus the sheer volume of hits, means it's skating into the middle of a frozen lake wearing stilletoes. Sure it would be nice if we could all get along and things could be done on the nod-and-the-wink, but the music industry doesn't work like that.

Assuming that the video was taken down because of the 'substantial rewrite' regulations, it's a shame but not unexpected.

Update (11 August, 9am): A statement from EMI, quoted by Radio 1's Newsbeat, said, "When a song is created based wholly on any of our writers' works, those writers need to grant their permission.

"If that permission isn't granted, then we ask the service in question to remove the song."

The director of the video, MJ Delaney, said she was unable to comment at the moment.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Interestingly, in the USA, the fair use and parody doctrine (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use has been used to allow for alterations to an original text... but that depends on having a lot of lawyer power.

  • Comment number 2.

    The internet is a wonderful thing - they'll never be able to actually stop it, not whilst there's fans around that love it and want to listen to it.

  • Comment number 3.

    There is clearly too much gray hair at EMI to see what youth needs and wants, their responses to these sorts of situations, makes them full time members of the grumpy old men’s club.

  • Comment number 4.

    In particular as this use of some of the original work is not in any way pretending to, or threatening any harm to, the original version (which is probably being listened to by a larger audience who before the spoof would have rightly ignored the self-important, falsely sincere and dull original), this won't go away. I'm sure there will be lots of people who simply download the versions online now, using any of the youtube converters out there, and at the flick of a switch upload another copy to youtube: the very definition of 'viral' and creating de facto a fair outcome without a single lawyer being paid a penny. The future looks bright :-)

  • Comment number 5.

    I have personal experience of the music industry (I worked in it for years).

    "The song contains a music sample of the 1970 single "Love on a Two-Way Street" by the band The Moments, the sample being the piano component that runs throughout the song"* As such, the actual melody of the track is not able to be published, as it has already been published by "The Moments in 1970.
    While the vocal melody is protected, it's use by the parody would constitute fair usage.
    Obviously, if any samples were used, they would need to be cleared, and paid for, but if no samples were used, this could be seen as a malicious prosecution, designed to hurt the creators of the parody.
    Also, if this legal case has been begun in the US, they will fall foul of the legal case law protecting Parody under the 1st amendment, and EMI will lose.

    It looks to me like EMI has called in the lawyers on a knee jerk reaction, which has been exacerbated by their current financial issues, and hopefully, once they have actually looked at this clearly, they will remove their objections.

    I am not a lawyer, and pretty rusty on my musical law, so the above is only a personal opinion, and should not be taken as gospel.

    *Direct quote from Wikipedia,

  • Comment number 6.

    Well, people wonder why piracy is so commonplace?
    Punishing fans who like the music enough to be so creative deserve better.
    Music has always been re-spun, re-hashed and remixed by fans.

    So yeah, way to go EMI, further alienate your consumer base. Anyone care to bet which will die off first - the record labels or the music fans? I'll give you a clue- you've just lost me as a customer.

    Intellectual property needs the kind of make-over that Jay-Zs video was given to bring it back up to date with the 21st Century, and I say this as a patent holder myself. The old laws are outdated and worse than useless.

  • Comment number 7.

    All a bit silly, but more to the point, why hasn't more publicity been given to the far far superior original spoof of the Jay-Z video, "Granite State of Mind", set in New Hampshire? Much much funnier than the Newport version - they even get a Robert Frost poem in there!

  • Comment number 8.

    This is just free publicity for EMI. Did the X-Factor producers complain about the video of Susan Boyle getting millions of hits on YouTube? That was put up in flagrant breach of copyright, but no-one complained about that. It was just a bit of fun, and anyone who can manage to fit Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch into a song is a genius.

  • Comment number 9.

    This shows all that is rotten and wrong about the modern music industry. A gutless communication media company in the form of YouTube all too keen to pull things at the behest of large music companies who most definitely do not have the best interests of either the music industry or even their own artists at heart.

    The pastiche of state of mind was a simple bit of fun, enjoyed by millions. Noone with even a modicum of common sense is going to confuse it with the original. I am also sure that noone would contemplate buying it instead of the original which can be the only sensible reason a company like EMI has cause for complaint.

    I would complain to EMI directly but it seems they are too gutless to list any email addresses publically.

  • Comment number 10.

    So erm, is the one that's been removed the same as this one:
    and this one:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBxSq2xoB_w (poor quality)

    EMI are not just rotten and wrong, they're stupid to think that a takedown notice will get this off the internet now!

    And to be honest I would never have heard of the original if it weren't for this version - not that I would ever pay for an EMI track now...

  • Comment number 11.

    One question is missing from this whole debacle, and from a lot of the influence the recording industry has over the internet: "Why?"

    Is Newport State Of Mind really going to cut into the profits of the real song?

    Does the largely semantic difference between a "substantial rewrite" and "fair use as parody" actually harm EMI or the people they represent?

    Is anyone actually benefitting from EMI doing this?

    Or are they, as so many record companies seem to do with YouTube - be it a video like this or some girl singing a 60 year old song on her piano - just doing it "because they can"?

  • Comment number 12.

    I reckon this is a fantastic piece of original creativity. Okay people can pick holes in it for its content but I say celebrate the ability to be creative. Instead of EMI being the music police officer in this case, seek people like this who embrace 21st Century creativity and have the vision to break new ground.
    The music industry has been the one of the biggest rip off merchants of all time in order to protect its own profits and stifle others only to protect themselves without recognising what others can offer.

    Instead of banning it, surely employ these people? Alot of security firms and police forces employ ex-criminals for advice, does the same principle not apply in this case?

  • Comment number 13.

    And what about the BBC Radio 1 parody "North Wales" ? Is that immune ? Will it disappear also ? I think not somehow. EMI are not the only prats in this game, so are WMG. Don't they realise they are getting free advertising. How many people like me hadn't heard the original until "Newport" was aired on BBC News. I now have copies of all three versions. Are there more? I love the internet just like I loved Pirate Radio back in the 60s. Long live the revolution.

  • Comment number 14.

    Just how are EMI involved in this?. Neither Jay-Z's Roc Nation label (who the original writers sent the song to) nor it's parent company Sony Entertainment have objected to this video.

    Surely copyright owners should have to prove, not just claim, copyright infringement before works are removed by YouTube. Otherwise the large corporations can continue to stifle creativity by misusing the copyright laws.

  • Comment number 15.

    What absolute idiots, I hate EMI so much.

  • Comment number 16.

    I wonder how long before the wonderful BTO parody 'Aint seen Ruthin yet' is picked up and pulled.
    I also wonder if the parody had been by someone such as "Weird Al" Yankovic, whether the reaction would have been similar.

  • Comment number 17.

    If it was by Weird Al it would be fine - as it would be done in America.

  • Comment number 18.

    @ gwynfryn and James McLaren: If it was by Weird Al Yankovic, it would be fine because he always asks for permission before performing his parodies and never goes ahead if refused it, notwithstanding his 'guaranteed' legal protection.


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