Was a Musician Really Sued for Infringing on the Copyright of a Silent Song?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: A musician was sued for infringing on the copyright of a silent song.


Mike Batt has had a long and storied career as a composer and music producer beginning in the late 60s

writing hits for performers as eclectic as Steeleye Span…


Art Garfunkel…


and, of course, The Wombles…


More recently, in 2002, Batt formed the classic rock crossover band, The Planets, and released the popular (well, popular for classical music, at least) album, Classical Graffiti…



On the album, Batt has a “song” titled “A One Minute Silence,” which is just that, one minute of silence.

That wouldn’t be such a problem, except Batt credited the song as written by Batt/Cage.


John Cage, of course, was a world famous avant garde composer, perhaps most famous for his 1952 composition, “4′33″,” which consisted of four minutes and thirty three seconds of seeming silence (the point of Cage’s piece was that of course there is no such thing as PURE silence, so in reality, what the song was made up of was the ambient noise of the audience as they watched a performer do nothing for four minutes and thirty three seconds).

If Batt had not mentioned Cage, that would be one thing, but the administrators of the John Cage Trust felt that by calling attention to it, he was clearly attempting to use Cage’s song – this was not just silence in their minds, this was silence meant to evoke Cage’s work and that the idea of showing “silence” in this regard was an artistic concept that could be protected by copyright, and thus they felt that it was copyright infringement, so they sued Batt.

Soon before the case went to trial, Batt eventually settled by making a “donation” to the John Cage Trust for somewhere in the low six figures.

Before settling, Batt had a great line about the songs, “Mine is a much better silent piece. I have been able to say in one minute what Cage could only say in four minutes and 33 seconds.”

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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