Ongoing History Daily: The Silliest Plagiarism Suit Ever

Plagiarism is an awful thing.  It’s when you appropriate someone else’s work and then claim it for your own.  It’s immoral, unethical and in many cases, illegal.  Now consider this.

Mike Batt is a British guy best known for writing parody songs.  As a joke, he issued a CD featuring a track called “One Minute of Silence.”  And it was exactly that: sixty seconds of nothing.  However, this is where the problem began.  John Cage was an avant-garde composer who issued a piece called “4’33″” in 1952.  It consisted of a pianist sitting down to and playing nothing for four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence.  When Mike Batt’s “One Minute of Silence” came out, John Cage’s people accused Mike of artistic theft and sued him for plagiarism. 

The case went to court–and believe it or not, Mike Batt had to pay John Cage’s people an undisclosed amount of money.  For recording…nothing.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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