Monday, April 11, 2011

Copyrighting Pi: The Saga Continues

Right after Pi Day (3/14), I posted the story of Michael John Blake, the Canadian musician whose video of a clever musical rendition of the first 31 digits of pi was ordered taken down by another ocmposer who had done a similar thing a number of years back. I said that I'd post an update once I got more information, and this weekend, a reader did the work for me:
I saw that you posted about this issue back around Pi Day and said you'll "keep following this story here as well".

Well, there has been a significant new development. Michael John Blake was finally successful with his counter-claim, having his video restored recently after a wait of weeks. But now, Lars [Erickson] has taken the next step, and filed an actual lawsuit.

A PDF of the filing can be found on Scribd if you simply search for "Erickson v Blake" (I'd link it but I don't want to be eaten by the spam filter)

As you can see, Lars wants to thieve EVERYTHING from him:

"This is a case of copyright infringement against Defendant Michael John Blake. The suit seeks actual damages, plus disgorgement of Defendant's profits, and statutory damages as well as the recovery of Plaintiff s expenses and reasonable attorneys' fees. Plaintiff also requests additional relief in the form of an injunction preventing
Defendant from engaging in further infringing acts."

Pretty disgusting that he's going to this length. I'm also surprised he took it this far. It's easy enough to bully someone with a DMCA takedown, but to actually file a suit? I posted a mocking comment on his Youtube profile a few weeks back - when "Newscientistvideo" uploaded a copy of Blake's video - taunting him about whether he wasgoing to claim against them too. He deleted the comment in moderation but replied in PM claiming he HAD already submitted a claim against them too. The video never went down, so that's obviously a lie.

--- Billy Wenge-Murphy
And in a later correspondence, Billy adds the following:
One more bit you might be interested in is that Lars was already aware
of a pi song which was created independently of his own, and he
treated it much differently. This video by "DSarahGarland":

If you follow the Youtube comments, Lars has been going around arguing that people clearly must have learned how to play Pi from his "Explanation of the Pi Symphony" video (nevermind its measly 24K views).

But, wait! Look at the comments! He put up that video in the first place because of her! He knows damn well others didn't have to copy him, because this girl's nearly identical creation inspired him to explain his own.

That seems to suggest ulterior motives for his treatment of Blake's work - jealousy maybe? Greed? Blake got more attention in one shot than Lars did in decades. Why be so friendly to that girl and so aggressively litigious to Blake?
Agreed--that's pretty strange. Thanks, Billy, for the update; I agree that Lars seems to be going way too far to protect a melody that's generated by a number. It reminds me of the music that came out after J.S. Bach died, where every composer and his cousin was writing melodies on the figure "B-A-C-H" (with "B" meaning "B-flat" and "H" meaning "B-natural" in old-school notation). Had there been stringent copyright laws in those days, would anyone be filing "Hey, I thought of that first!" lawsuits against each other? I sort of doubt it.

Sounds like this one isn't over; more updates to come.

UPDATE: Only a few hours after I posted this (and a mere ten minutes after I watched the video again for the first time in nearly a month), the video has been taken down again, at Erickson's request. This guy isn't exactly winning friends and influencing people, is he?

1 comment:

Magnus Holmgren said...

Lazy Erickson tried to sue Blake back at home in Nebraska, but the judge agreed with Blake that the court lacked personal jurisdiction and transferred the case to the defendant's home state, Oregon.