By Marco DiLeonardo
Marco DiLeonardo is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying International Relations.
In relation to law and society, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) demonstrates how law can be used as a tool for social control, especially in the genre of Remix. Remix consists of sampling, or extracting media from different sources, and mixing them together.  By hampering the creation of Remix music, law acts as a tool for social control of up-and-coming DJs and artists. According to popular theorist Donald Black, law’s function is to regulate and constrain the behaviors of individuals in their relationship with one another.  In other words, parties and lobbyists can promote specific interests through law. On the other hand, according to sociologists, laws are simply a guide for action, needing interpretation and enforcement. The DMCA prevents the distribution of an artist’s work. While there is no formal law explicitly limiting a work’s dissemination, the legal apprehension and administration of the DMCA prefers music labels and suppresses the creation of Remix work.
Copyright law controls the people by hampering the creation of revolutionary music. Through an interpretation of Black’s philosophy, one may postulate that laws governing copyright are designed to limit and suppress unfamiliar musicians for the benefit of popular artists. Artists caught unlawfully remixing music are punished through compensation, a contractual obligation in which the violator owes the victim restitution, typically financial. However, I argue that remixing established music is a “crime without victim.”
A “crime without a victim” refers to any violation made illegal but does not directly violate or threaten the rights of another individual.  By listening to a remixed work, the artist promotes the established work. As more people listen to the music, the original artist gains popularity. This phenomenon can be easily seen through the remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” by Cedric Gervais. After the release of the remix, the original “Summertime Sadness” shot up to six on the charts in a relatively little amount of time. In reality, through the remix’s distribution, both artists benefit.
Another theoretical component of copyright law is the interest group influence of the lawmaking process. In my opinion, the DMCA remains in legislation almost twenty years later due to lobbying from massive music labels. While undiscovered artists suffer from a collective action problem and are unable to successfully lobby government, music labels and popular artists are able to organize, defend, and promote copyright laws aimed in stifling the Remix genre. On an individual legal case-by-case basis, interest groups easily dominate Remix artists. With any copyright conflict, music labels can threaten poor artists with legal action. Rather than attempting to combat the highly skilled, expensive legal teams of the labels, the individual artist folds.
. Navas, Eduardo. Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling. New York: SpringerWein, 2012. 3.
. Vago, Steven. Law and Society. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1981.
. Legal Dictionary. The Free Dictionary. 2016.
. Leight, Elias. From ‘Ignition’ to ‘Macarena’: 13 Remixes Better Than the Original. Billboard, 2014.
Photo Credit Flickr User: Blogtrepreneur
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