[Smt-talk] Music Plagiarism Cases

Stephen Guy Soderberg ssod at loc.gov
Fri Dec 18 08:31:42 PST 2009

I suppose that technically you're right, Daniel.  Out of all the silence
in the universe, Batt identified the silence he used as Cage's.  As I
noted, his mistake was in identifying it as such. If he had not put the
"authorship" statement on it — just an unattributed minute of silence,
he could hardly have been sued.  I'm not a lawyer, but I personally
believe, aesthetic considerations notwithstanding, that if the content
of 4'33" does not qualify as de minimus, nothing (so to speak)
does(n't).  It would have been different (in my opinion) if the Trust
attorneys had a problem with Batt using Cage's name, but the issue
appears to have been appropriation of the content of the work without
proper permission.  I would love to have seen the cease and desist
notice Batt received which would have had to be of the form "stop
selling nothing that my client owns."  It makes me wonder if any of the
publications Cage took his mesostics from could have sued him on the
same grounds (if they had thought of it).  The whole thing is so
beautifully, convolutedly Cagean — a true opus posthumorous.

— Steve Soderberg

(who just remembered he should add in this case the usual disclaimer:
none of the opinions expressed herein are necessarily shared  by my
employer, the Library of Congress.)

>>> "Daniel Wolf" <djwolf at snafu.de> 12/18/2009 9:56 AM >>>
The Batt case was not one of plagiarism but rather of failure to pay a 

license for work which Batt himself identified and credited Cage as an 

author.   Useful information about this is available starting here


and following the links in the item.

Daniel Wolf
composer, Frankfurt

On Fri, 18 Dec 2009 15:26:41 +0100, Stephen Guy Soderberg
<ssod at loc.gov>  

> The most bizarre (or is it bazaar?) case I know of was when the John
> Cage Trust sued Mike Batt formerly of the Wombies over an album
> consisting of one minute of silence.  Batt was upfront that it was a
> tribute to Cage, but the Trust claimed plagiarism of 4'33" and sued.
> Probably his mistake was listing the authorship of the track as
> "Batt/Cage" (heh, get it?)  You all probably think I'm making this
> but it's easy to search the web for info on this case and a quick
> summary is here: http://www.out-law.com/page-2978.  Evidently Batt
> settled for six figures!!  Well, after all... he DID quote 25% of
> work note-for-note. 8-P

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list