Rhea Myers

Cover Versions

“This is not my song to you and this is not me singing it,
A cover version, words I found, dressed in black with eyes seductive.
I remember yesterday but someone else bought yesterday,
Dead with nothing left to say, screaming it out anyway.”

  • ‘Body Elective’.

One of the themes post-“Free Culture” (the book) that speakers on copyright always come back to is remixing and its historical precedents. The canto is a fascinating example, classical poems made form lines of other poems. Another more problematic example is Shakespeare. Shakey’s re-presentation of themes are more cover versions than remixes. If a remix is a reworking of a performance, a cover version is a reworking of a score. The idea of a score is central to Goodman’s aesthetic theory, and to traditional music copyright, but that’s not why it’s important here. The freedom to re-create a work rather than just to use a particular realisation of it one of the key freedoms of the GPL, and one of the reasons why providing source code is a requirement of it. The source code for a program is its score, and vice versa. The cover version should not be forgotten in the current lionisation of sampling any more than it should be used to obscure the common theme of reworking that it shares with sampling.