The Evolution Control Committee (Contact: Mark Gunderson)
voice: 614-262-0654
fax: 614-268-6859
Eerie Materials (Contact: Mark Seilhamer)
voice: 415-441-2438
fax: 415-673-2522

January 28th, 2000


San Francisco-based music label Eerie Materials and Columbus, Ohio-based experimental musical group The Evolution Control Committee have received a threat of legal action by CBS Corporation over "Rocked By Rape", a musical critique and parody of violence in network television news, featuring samples of CBS Evening News anchorman Dan Rather.

The song "Rocked By Rape" was formerly available only as a 7" single vinyl record. The lyrics (including the title) are an audio collage of violent words and phrases spoken by Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News. This collage is mixed with a bed of music samples from AC/DC's song "Back In Black".

Eerie Materials and The Evolution Control Committee must cease all distribution of the record or face "appropriate action", according to Sanford I. Kryle, Associate General Counsel for CBS. In a January 19th 2000 communication to Eerie Materials Kryle warned, "Your use of (Dan Rather's voice) significantly infringes upon the copyrights owned by CBS."

"Frankly, I am outraged," wrote ECC's Mark Gunderson in a strongly worded reaction. "The copyright law itself allows for people to make "fair use" of copyrighted materials for purposes of parody. `Rocked By Rape’ is nothing if not parody."

"The title itself, `Rocked By Rape', is not the result of some clever editing trick on our part but was actually spoken by Rather during one broadcast," Gunderson explains. "While the context of that phrase and others we included in our piece may differ from the original, we feel that these `shock phrases' are often all that remain in a viewer's mind after each broadcast. Our critique -- our parody -- makes this point plainly."

Although Eerie Materials and The ECC would like to defend their rights in court, both admit they haven't the resources to pursue it. Larger corporations frequently escape potential court losses and the resulting negative publicity by prolonging pre-trial preparations. The battle then becomes a war of attrition, fought with mounting legal fees -- a burden which cash-strapped smaller organizations cannot bear.

"I was under the impression that the mainstream media considered vinyl to be a dead format," states Eerie Materials' Mark Seilhamer. "When a corporate giant such as CBS goes to the trouble to have their legal flunkies make threats of litigation over a 7" vinyl single pressed in miniscule quantities, you know it's simply bullying for bullying's sake."

Although The ECC sampled Dan Rather's voice and the theme music to the CBS Evening News, doing so is legal for use in a parody. In a 1993 US Supreme Court case the rap group 2 Live Crew successfully defended their right to sample Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" without permission for their parody of his song. However, Kryle claims that "to copy, record, perform, exhibit, exploit, or otherwise use (Rather's words) constitutes a serious infringement of CBS's exclusive rights in such material."

Commenting on the legal threat against The Evolution Control Committee, Negativland, a musical group who appeared in court multiple times to defend their legal rights as collage-based musicians, writes, "Such a usage as is found in `Rocked By Rape' is clearly an example of Fair Use as allowed by copyright law. This is art as parody, and as social `commentary and criticism,' and is precisely why copyright ownership is not an `exclusive' right."

"The most surprising phrase in all of copyright law is where it says that the laws are intended to encourage new work to be created," Negativland writes. "Nowhere does it say that they can or should be used to censor and inhibit new work."

What can you do to help? A polite email, phone call, or letter to CBS in support of The ECC and Eerie Materials can make a difference. Tell CBS to drop their legal threats. Concerned readers are encouraged to express their opinions to:

Mr. Sanford Kryle
CBS Legal Department
phone: 212-975-4601

Dan Rather
CBS Evening News
phone: 212-975-3691

Kim Akhtar
CBS Public Relations
phone: 212-975-4296

CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
524 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
phone: 212-975-3247

CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System)
51 W. 52 St.
New York, NY 10019
phone: 212-975-4321

The Evolution Control Committee is an experimental multimedia band with a 13 year history of audio collage and sonic exploration. Previous releases have received positive reviews in Spin, The CMJ (College Music Journal), Magnet, and other national press. The ECC recently launched their own label, Evolution Controlled Creations, with a CD compilation entitled "Party Like It’s Only $19.99".

Eerie Materials is an independent San Francisco based record label specializing in music that defies categorization in the industry's prescribed genres. Since 1991 Eerie Materials has released records for a diverse array of bands including The Evolution Control Committee, Man or Astroman?, Kingdom Scum, Negativland, and Caroliner Rainbow Hernia Milkqueen.

The Evolution Control Committee
P.O. Box 10391
Columbus, OH 43201
voice: 614-262-0654
fax: 614-268-6859
web: ("Rocked By Rape" can be heard at this web site)
Press web page:

Eerie Materials
P.O. Box 420816
San Francisco, CA 94142-0816
voice: 415-441-2438
fax: 415-673-2522