Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Jarndyce v Jarndyce

I’ve thought that a good (and hilarious?) high-art musical joke would be to do a hip-hop track called ‘Jarndyce and Jarndyce’. It would take its name from the hereditary legal case that runs through Dickens’s Bleak House. Jarndyce v Jarndyce drags on for several generations, gradually consuming a large inheritance with legal costs. The same would be true for the hip-hop track. It would obviously be a huge hit, generating tens of thousands of pounds in royalties. None of these would ever be paid out, though. The track would be crammed full of samples, deliberately targeting some of the most litigious music catalogues. There would be some early Rolling Stones, a bit of the Stranglers, several samples from Marvin Gaye, and some of George Clinton’s work thrown in for good measure. The lyrics, too, would be stolen from a variety of sources, including hip-hop artists who have suffered their own legal misfortunes. The chorus would feature a number of interwoven melody lines, each taken from the most obvious of hits. None of this borrowing would be credited or cleared. ‘Jarndyce and Jarndyce’ would instead welcome claims of copyright infringement. More than this, it would want to set the various copyright owners in conflict with each other. The aim, ultimately, would be to create a track whose shares are so complicated they are never resolved. And while this conflict is in motion the song's royalties are consumed. 

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