I was in Vegas in April of this year and saw Cirque du Soleil’s Love– a truly magnificent tribute to The Beatles through their music and Cirque’s visual extravagance.
The show opens with one of the last songs The Beatles recorded- “Because” for Let it Be. John Lennon is quoted as having said that the song is based on Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven. Listen to both, and you know he’s right.
(“Video of Moonlight Sonata”:http://youtube.com/watch?v=O6txOvK-mAk on YouTube)
This got me to thinking about fair use. Would Lennon (or his lawyers) have risked it if the Sonata was still under copyright? There were “only” about 170 years between Moonlight Sonata and Let it Be, so in modern copyright terms, they were cutting it a little close.
Think that’s a stretch? Remember, Rep. Mary Bono channeling Jack Valenti once asked Congress for “forever less one day” copyright terms.
Note: I know that Lennon’s use would probably be ruled as fair use in a reasonable court of law. That is not the issue. The issue is that fear of litigation may have prevented Lennon (or his producers) from ever releasing “Because” in to the wild and ours would have been a poorer culture for that.