A legal mystery as dark as 'Night'

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A legal mystery as dark as 'Night'

Thu Jun 11, 2009 @ 03:11PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

DarknightMusic fans are buzzing about the legal difficulties that have interfered with the release of "Dark Night of the Soul," a collaboration between Danger Mouse and Sparkelhouse, featuring many notable indie musicians and album artwork by director David Lynch.

A few weeks ago, the album was released as a book-and-CD package. But the CD is blank and a sticker on the shrink wrap says, "For legal reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will."

Since that time, speculation about the "legal reasons" has raged. A leading theory is that it had something to do with "The Grey Album," a mash-up produced by Danger Mouse that combined The Beatles' "White Album" with Jay-Z's "Black Album." Danger Mouse got into "an ongoing dispute with EMI" (his words), which controls a lot of The Beatles catalogue.

But today, The New York Times has more details about the current dispute. The paper cites anonymous sources who say the situation is related to a long-term recording contract that Danger Mouse signed with Lex Records, a British independent that later entered into a joint venture deal with EMI. The paper writes, "Lately EMI and Danger Mouse have been engaged in contentious renegotiation talks, these people say, although no new agreement has been reached, and Danger Mouse has pulled the music from 'Dark Night of the Soul' because he feared he would be in breach of contract with EMI if he released the music through any other outlet."

Pulled the music? Well, not exactly. 

The NYT doesn't mention that the album is widely available for download on various file-sharing sites, and Danger Mouse has provided a streaming license to various networks like NPR. It's widely assumed that the music for "Dark Night of the Soul" was purposefully leaked by Danger Mouse himself, and that consumers were given a blank CD-R to burn the album's music from illegal download sources — which would explain the "cryptic" shrink wrap sticker.

If the details about Danger Mouse's contract situation are indeed correct, we wonder if he would incur any liability for employing a creative method to get his music out. 

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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