His latest album, Feed The Animals, is turning out to be a sort of testing of the waters for the “Fair Use” doctrine. Strange how it takes a biomedical engineer loosely associated with hip-hop culture to bring this issue to the forefront of media coverage. As the NYTimes puts it, are the majors willing to risk a precedent-setting judgement in his (our) favor?

NYTimes: Steal This Hook? D.J. Skirts Copyright Law

Excerpt 1:

He said he had never been threatened with a lawsuit, although both iTunes and a CD distributor stopped carrying his last album, “Night Ripper,” because of legal concerns. (It had sold 20,000 copies before then, according to Nielsen SoundScan.) It may not be in the interests of labels or artists to sue Mr. Gillis, because such a move would risk a precedent-setting judgment in his favor, not to mention incur bad publicity.

Fair use has become important to the thinking of legal scholars, sometimes called the “copyleft,” who argue that copyright law has grown so restrictive that it impedes creativity. And it has become enough of an issue that Mr. Gillis’s congressman, Representative Mike Doyle, Democrat of Pennsylvania, spoke on his behalf during a hearing on the future of radio.

Excerpt 2:

Mr. Gillis chose to allow fans to decide how much they wanted to pay to download “Feed the Animals” from Illegal Art. (He plans to release the album on CD in September.) Illegal Art puts out sample-based music that falls into a legal gray area because the company’s owner, who goes by the pseudonym Philo T. Farnsworth, after an inventor of television, believes that the law limits artists unfairly.

“What the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy were doing, no one could do anymore,” he said, referring to groups that made music from densely layered samples when record companies were paying less attention to these legal issues. “We’re drawn into this because of the music we support.”

Dj Drama Defended In Congress, HipHop Benefits