During a recent congressional hearing on the future of radio, Pennsylvania Representative Mike Doyle did something that might surprise you: he started talking about mashup pioneer Girl Talk. The Congressman -- Vice Chairman of the Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee -- became aware of Girl Talk a.k.a.Gregg Gillis, the Pittsburgh-based chemical engineer by day and brazen Beyonce-and-Biggie sampling DJ by night, via an especially savvy member of his staff. Congressman Doyle considers Gregg, a "local guy done good," a prime example of why our government should revamp (or at least reexamine) our nation's copyright laws.
We called up Congressman Doyle and got him to elaborate on his remarkably progressive views. Check it out.
What's on your iPod?
I have a lot more Earth Wind and Fire, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell on mine than any of Girl Talk.
Why did you choose to mention Girl Talk instead of other artists that sample music?
I used him as an example because he was a local Pittsburgh guy who had made quite a reputation for himself. The point I was trying to make was here's a guy who mixes Elton John and Notorious B.I.G. and Destiny's Child. I never heard many songs from Notorious B.I.G. and Destiny's Child, but I've got a lot of Elton John records and I see this as a way to promote other artists to an audience that may not have heard some of their songs. I don't understand the record industry's paranoia that this is somehow going to harm one of those three artists.
Do you think that your audience at the hearing knew who Girl Talk is?
The person that spoke after me, Representative John Shimkus from Illinois -- I think his comment was, "I don't have a clue what Mike Doyle just said." (laughs) When I was looking at the audience there were a lot of blank stares there, but I think after the hearing they all went out and Googled Girl Talk and found out who he was.
During your speech, you said that sampling music is the same thing as Sir Paul McCartney borrowing a riff from Chuck Berry.
I mean it could be. I don't see the difference. He borrowed a little bit from Chuck Berry and made a great song with it. I just heard a tape that had Christina Aguilera lyrics over somebody else's music, I think it was over a Lou Reed background and it sounded pretty good to me!
So it's OK as long as you're not making money off of someone else's music?
Yeah. I certainly respect the artist's creativity. It's their music and I don't think that someone should just be able to take their lyrics and music and alter it some way and then make a living off of it. I wasn't necessarily saying at the hearing that this is something we should make legal, I just think that we shouldn't throw these guys in jail right away because a guy plays this on the internet.
What's a reasonable consequence for violating music copyright laws?
I certainly don't advocate jail sentencing. (laughs) Our prisons are over crowded enough I don't think we need to be putting people in jail. If a person is downloading a couple of songs on their PC for their personal use, that's one thing. If someone is downloading thousands of things and somehow reusing them or reselling them, that's another thing.
In response to your speech, Girl Talk's publicity team said, "Who knew politicians could be so hip?" Do you care to respond?
I better leave that one alone.