BROOKE GLADSTONE: Attorney Clive Stafford Smith represents nearly three dozen Guantanamo detainees. He says that for one of his clients, Binyam Mohammed, being subjected to deafening Eminem round the clock for weeks was torture. And Smith thought perhaps he could stop it by using copyright protections against the military, forcing the U.S. government to pay royalties each and every time it blared a song.
The case hasn't been filed yet, but Smith still believes that it may be one way to prevent the kind of treatment his client received. CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Which included taking a razor blade to his penis, for goodness sake. Of all the suffering that's he's been through, he said, surprisingly to me, that the worst was the psychological torture which involved drugs and involved music. BROOKE GLADSTONE: So you're saying that Binyam Mohammed felt that really loudly playing Eminem music 24 hours a day for 20 days was worse than having a razor blade applied to his penis. CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: He really did. And I'll tell you, you know, initially that seems counterintuitive, but Binyam's position was, look, when it's physical pain you know what the pain's going to be. It's excruciating but it only lasts for a short time. But when it's psychological, you begin to lose your mind and you begin to realize that you're losing your mind. And he felt that that was much more frightening. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Can I ask you what Eminem's reaction has been? Have you been able to reach him on this topic? CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: No. Unfortunately to date I haven't managed to reach anyone who's willing to sue on this. BROOKE GLADSTONE: American copyright laws are difficult to apply to a case like this. Not so, certain European copyright laws. There is a kind of morality clause that exists in places like England and France, is there not? CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Well, you're quite right. There are two different ways of looking at it. One is playing this music, even in a prison, you have to pay royalties. But then the other thing which you're referring to is the moral rights. And certainly in many European countries you have strong moral rights that your product, whether it be music or whatever, can't be used in such a way as would be totally contrary to what you did it for.
So, you know, someone who wrote the Barney theme tune did not write that to torture human beings around the world. BROOKE GLADSTONE: On what grounds in the U.S. could you extract a dime from the military for using this stuff? There's no measurable effect on the potential market for or the value of the copyrighted work. CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: It does have a very big impact on the artists. You'll remember, for example, when President Ronald Reagan wanted to use Born in the U.S.A. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER] BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN [SINGING]: Born down in a dead man's town. The first kick I took was when I hit the ground. You end up like a dog that's been beat too much. CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Certainly Bruce Springsteen had a very strong interest in not having his song as a theme tune for the Republicans when he very clearly wasn't a Republican, and the song is very clearly not a paean for the sorts of things that President Reagan was proposing. BROOKE GLADSTONE: The Army would say that by using the music in this way, it's trying to increase America's security. There's no dollar-and-cents value to be placed on that. CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Well, the arguments you're making could very well be put in the courts, and I'll be very glad to be in the court and counter them. But let's not lose sight of the real issue here. This issue about the abuse of prisoners in Guantanamo and elsewhere is not just for us lawyers. It's for everyone round about, and that would include the musicians, and I would very much like to think they'd stand up for the principles of civilization along with us. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Clive, thank you very much. CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Well, thank you. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Clive Stafford Smith is the legal director of Reprieve. He's currently representing about 35 prisoners at Guantanamo. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER] BOB GARFIELD: That's it for this week's show. On the Media was produced by Megan Ryan, Jamie York, Mike Vuolo, Mark Phillips and Nazanin Rafsanjani, and edited by Brooke. Dylan Keefe is our technical director and Jennifer Munson our engineer. We had help from Stewart Willie at the BBC in London. Our webmaster is Amy Pearl. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Katya Rogers is our senior producer and John Keefe our executive producer. Bassist/composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. This is On the Media from WNYC. I'm Brooke Gladstone. BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield.