SPYCAST STORY GETS STRANGER

The already odd story of a British record label suing the band Wilco over spies' shortwave broadcasts just look a left turn into downright weird.As detailed below, Akin Fernandez and his London-based label, Irdial Discs, took the alt-country gurus to court for illicitly using a recording, taken straight from the airwaves, of a woman repeating the phrase "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." That's the title of Wilco's 2002 breakthrough album, and the band used a minute and a half of the tape during one of its songs.Strange enough. But now, it's unclear whether Fernandez even taped the "Yankee" shortwave broadcast himself. Simon Mason, a spycast enthusiast and author of Secret Signals: The Euronumbers Mystery, said he gave Fernandez the captured transmission -- one of many -- in an informal deal.According to Mason, Fernandez asked him for his numbers station collection -- much of which is freely available online -- when Fernandez was putting together the Irdial compilation. "I was happy to do so as I felt he was sticking his neck out and spending his money on what I thought would be a very esoteric collection of about 300 boxed sets with a very limited appeal, and that there was no money to be made on selling them," Mason recalled in an e-mail."All that money I could have made if I had copyrighted them!" Mason wrote. "Since I gave Akin the recordings willingly for nothing, I don't have any come back. But in hindsight I would have come to some sort of deal that meant I would get a cut, but life is too short to get upset about it now."Mason may be maintaining a Zen exterior. But some intellectual property lawyers are more than steamed at Fernandez for laying claim to Mason's recordings."If Irdial simply published someone else's recording verbatim, then under U.S. Copyright law, they don't own anything," EFF attorney Jason Schultz said in an e-mail."If anyone held a copyright here, it would be Mason," added Wendy Zeltzer, a fellow at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society.Fernandez' admits that Mason was "one of the major donators" to the Irdial set. But despite the familiar-sounding MP3 file on Mason's website, Fernandez said "the recording used on Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was made by me."

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