Coming amid the nationwide celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, U.S. District Judge Kevin Duffy's decision in the Biz Markie copyright infringement case ("Judge Raps Practice of 'Sampling,' " Dec. 18) serves as a sobering--and much-needed--reminder that the First Amendment is not absolute in its meaning or protections. Nor would the music industry wish it to be.
Interpreted literally, the First Amendment's guarantee that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" would overturn not only the obscenity laws the music industry routinely denounces, but also the copyright laws it strenuously defends. "Unauthorized copying, reproduction, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcasting prohibited," reads the notice on one of my cassettes. If that is not a statement of prior restraint, I am not sure what is.