Transcript – Let’s Talk – Girl Talk (1.2)

Transcription by Amanda K. Booher

All music from Girl Talk; all music lyrics (below) in italics

The chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Doyle.

[Mr. Doyle] Thank you Mr. Chairman and welcome to our witnesses. Mr. Chairman, I want to tell you a little story of a local guy done good. His name is Greg Gillis, and by day, he’s a biomedical engineer in Pittsburgh. At night, he DJs under the name “Girl Talk.” His latest mash-up record made the top albums of 2006 list of Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and Spin Magazine, amongst others. His shtick, as the Chicago Tribune wrote about him is “based on the notion that some sampling of copyrighted material, especially when manipulated and recontextualized into a new art form, is legit and deserves to be heard.” In one example, Mr. Chairman, he blended Elton John, Notorious B.I.G., and Destiny’s Child all in the span of thirty seconds. And while the legal indy music download site took his stuff down for possible copyright violations, he’s now flying all over the world to open concerts and remix for artists like Beck.

(Quad City DJs – “C’mon N Ride It (The Train)”)
Way down south yo we play this game,
It’s them Quad City DJs and you, we call it the train
So if you wanna ride your thing, just come on down
The train we gonna rock, woo! Lord, just jump aboard, baby

So get your next of kin, your sister and her friend
Pack it up now choo-choo…ride on this, choo-choo
(fading out)

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
Over the years, technology has changed, well, pretty much everything. Teenagers have basically grown up on computers, utilizing applications such as YouTube, MySpace, and Garage Band to express themselves in new and innovative ways.

(music transitions to different version of “Come on Ride the Train” – female vocals)
C’mon ride the train, and ride it
C’mon ride the train, and ride it

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
One artist who has taken advantage of such devices is Girl Talk. Ex-biomedical engineer turned DJ, Pittsburgh resident Greg Gillis now solely focuses on his music career, with a style that’s commonly referred to as mash-up.

(music gets momentarily louder, then fades again)

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
Mashup, bootleg, or blend, is a song or composition created from the combination of the music of one song, with the a capella from another.

Started off friends…

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
For example, right now, the song you’re listening to is the drum beat from the Zombies “Time of the Season” layered on top of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone.” In fact, a single song usually consists of fifteen to twenty-five clips, sampled from other artists. Rarely creating his own beats from scratch, Girl Talk instead takes preexisting riffs, and manipulates them to fit the other tracks he’s layering them with.

…me say, is how I picture me with you…

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
Legally, it all comes down to a term called “fair use.” To really understand what that means, we’re going to have to take an Art History lesson. I know it sounds boring, but don’t worry, I’ll be brief as possible.

yeah, yeah, thanks to you, now I get, what I want…since you’ve been gone…

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
Yes, that is a urinal. In 1917, Marcel Duchamp showed the world that art can be valued and admired not only for its technical aspects, but for what it stands for. This avant gard approach showed how the conceptualization and context of a work of art can have more meaning and impact than the technical aspects.

like forty, don’t say that…

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
Pop artist icon Andy Warhol pursued Duchamps idea of conceptualization. However, he ran into a bit of trouble with one of his most famous works: Campbell’s Soup. In the wake of Duchamp’s ideals, a new term came into play, called “appropriation.” Artists would appropriate other works of art, changing little to nothing from the original, and claim it as their own. While the look remained the same, the artist usually made a statement by changing its context, and thus conceptually changing the piece into a brand new work of art. Despite the copyrights, Warhol argued his Campbell’s Soup did not violate anything, because the public was unlikely to see the paintings as sponsored by the soup company, or as a competing product. This is just one example of an appropriation leading to copyright infringement. And eight years later, the United States Congress passed the Copyright Act of 1976, defining what they called “fair use.”

…you can take a look around, baby bend around…in the spot, spot spot. (Yeah!) I got money on it (Yeah!) Baby girl don’t bother…

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
Over the years, use of appropriation has shifted from the fine arts to the music industry, and Gillis has been trying to defend his music under “fair use.”

Where can I find a woman like that…

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
The defense against the infringement of a copyright is called “fair use.” It’s illegal to use copyrighted material without the permission of the owner; however, certain exceptions are allowed. The four rules that shape these exceptions are the purpose and character; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the use; and the effect on the work’s value.

…but I rather get some head…

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
Under the first few rules, Girl Talk seems to have a losing case. Purpose and character is meant to allow use of copyrighted material for criticism and educational purposes, which, he does neither. Nature of the copyrighted work is meant to prevent private ownership of work that belongs to the general public, such as facts and ideas. Since he’s using copyrighted music, however, he loses this one too. Gillis argues that his samples are so short, that it doesn’t constitute as infringement, and that he has conceptually changed the music. Although he’s changed the context of the original music, he has, on occasion, lifted entire verses from songs, which would hardly be considered insubstantial.

…lemme search ya, to find out how hard I gotta work ya…

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
From the looks of it, the one case Gillis would actually win is the last, which is meant to evaluate if the infringement hurt the copyright owner’s market. I doubt people would stop buying Beastie Boy albums just because a random artist decided to mix them with the Jackson Five.

…the rhythm, the rebel. Without a pause, I’m lowering my level. The hard grammar…

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
Now, the system isn’t structured for him to have to win the majority, or three out of the four rules, in order to be considered fair use. The court’s just supposed to take the four parts into consideration. This was simply speculative. Girl Talk has yet to be brought into court, although iTunes and emusic have both stopped selling his albums, due to the ambiguity. So no one knows for sure what the actual rulings would be.

…jiggle it, jiggle it…

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
Now remember, artists of all genres have been charged with copyright infringement, from George Harrison, to Vanilla Ice, to JayZ, but although these artists have been struggling with this same problem for years, their genre would still carry on, win or lose. Preventing musicians such as Girl Talk from sampling their songs, on the other hand, would be preventing the growth of a whole new genre of music. While I think the creators of the originals should be credited for their contribution, I believe copyrights are crippling artistic and creative growth.

and jiggle it, and jiggle it…

[Narrator – music continues softly in background]
With his fan base growing by the day, Girl Talk is beginning to bring more and more attention to the issue. I can only hope that this will shed new light on the situation, and maybe one day, artists will be able to work without limiting themselves to copyrights. I guess, only time will tell.

get buzzed get drunk get crunk get fucked up
hit the strip club, don’t forget ones, get your dick rubbed get fucked get sucked
get wasted shit-face-sted,
pasted blasted puke drink up,
get a new drink, hit the bathroom throw up
wipe your shoe clean, got a routine
knowing still got a few chunks on your shoestring
I was dehydrated til the beat vibrated
I was revibed soon as this bitch gyrated her hips
And licked them lips and that was it
I had to get Nate Dogg here to sing some shit…

la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la