Last summer, I worked for a small amusement center called Funplex, located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. It had a decent playlist consisting of a wide variety of music, but there was one song in particular that caught my ear each time it played. It started with the intro to “No Rain” by Blind Melon, an early-nineties classic. Then, suddenly, it switched into a dance-pop song with similar, yet not identical, lyrics. The song is likely considered redistribution, which Dustin W. Edwards says involves “redeploying updated texts in new ways and to potentially new audiences” in his essay, “Framing Remix Rhetorically: Toward A Typology of Transformative Work.”
After extensive research, I found that the song was called “Insane,” and it was by Mandy Jiroux, an old friend of Miley Cyrus. Also, the actual song was nowhere to be found on the internet. The video was taken down, it wasn’t for purchase or streaming. The only trace of it was in the background of a YouTube video of some guy playing guitar to it. Stereogum posted an article in 2016 about how Blind Melon sued Jiroux for ripping off the song. The article says that it “might be one of the weirder recent cases of copyright infringement.” It tells that, “Jiroux’s reps reached out to Blind Melon’s people to license the song, but the band turned them down, and Jiroux released the song anyway.” However, in an interview with Jiroux by iHeartRadio, posted two weeks before, Jiroux had said that Blind Melon “loved the song so much I’m the only artist that they’ve ever let use that classic hook.” Yikes.
Below, the original song followed by the Jiroux’s song playing while a man plays guitar along with it.
This is a pretty prime example of a remix gone wrong. Jiroux and her music production team took something previously made, remixed it to become a different style, failed to follow simple rules of honest remixing, then reaped the consequences. “‘Permission is vital, legally,’” Laurence Lessig says in his book, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, “even if today it is impossible to obtain.” Even if Blind Melon had told Jiroux’s team that the intro to the song could be used, they would have likely been sued for taking it a step further and making the lyrics nearly identical, but with a different meaning. The song went from a rock song with a deep meaning to a dance-pop song about partying. (“High life/feeling better than a flashlight/zooming out like it’s the twilight/we don’t wanna go home/tonight will be the party of a lifetime”).
If Jiroux would have simply covered the song, there would have been no issue. A CMU article states that “if Jiroux had recorded a straight cover, she would not have required explicit permission from Blind Melon – or specifically the band’s guitarist Brad Smith, who has a controlling interest in the ‘No Rain’ song copyright – because in the US there is a compulsory licence [sic] for covers.” Since the meaning of the song was changed, it was an issue, and thus Jiroux was sued, and the song could be found nowhere except for that one YouTube video and Funplex in Mount Laurel, NJ for some reason.
This example teaches us as producers that legality is no joke. When one is remixing, they have to adhere to certain guidelines in order to be honest, fair, and in accordance with the law. It’s a bit of an eggshell walk, but it’s in nearly everything that content creators do. People steal, even unintentionally. Too often do people get punished for plagiarism that they didn’t intend, simple because the world is large and there are only so many words/music sounds/pictures/etc that can be created. But in some cases, it is very obviously intentional, and this sort of intent is careless and often results in a hefty court case that no one feels like going through.
Word count: 621
Claymore, Gabriela Tully. “Blind Melon Sue Dance-Pop Artist For Ripping Off ‘No Rain.’” Stereogum, 31 Aug. 2016.
Cooke, Chris. “Mandy Jiroux Countersues Blind Melon in Insane Copyright Case.” CMU, 9 Nov. 2016.
Edwards, Dustin W. “Framing Remix Rhetorically: Toward a Typology of Transformative Work.” Computers and Composition, 24 Dec. 2015.
Jiroux, Mandy. “Insane.” Varcity Productions, 2016.
Lessig, Lawrence. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Penguin Books, 2008.
Mastrogiannis, Nicole. “INTERVIEW: Mandy Jiroux Talks New Single ‘Insane’ | Music You Should Know.” iHeartRadio, 11 Aug. 2016.