Justin Bieber's record label says it won't take action against a dramatically slowed-down version of the single “U Smile” that has become an instant Internet sensation. "No, we are not trying to take this down," said a spokesman for Universal Music Group, the parent of Bieber's label Island Records. "People seem to love it and Justin thinks it’s great."

Nick Pittsinger, a 20-year-old musician and producer based in Tampa, Florida, who goes by the stage name “Shamantis,” has said he used a free program called Paulstretch to take create a new version of “U Smile” that is eight times slower than the original. The resulting 30-minute remix -- think of it as a reverse “Chipmunks” version -- is a haunting, trance-like work that sounds little or nothing like Bieber’s original three-minute, twenty-one second pop tune.

On its face, though, Pittsinger’s version is likely an infringement of both the sound recording (owned by Universal’s Island Records) and the musical composition (owned by both UMG and EMI), based on the song written by Bieber, Arden Altino, Jerry Duplessis, and Dan August Rigo. US copyright law grants copyright owners the exclusive right to make “derivative works” based on the original. The Copyright Act defines “derivative works” to include “a...musical arrangement...sound recording, ...or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted.”

Despite the likely infringing nature of remixes such as Pittsinger’s, labels and publishers have generally tolerated them, at least where the creator is not directly profiting from the work. There is no indication that Pittsinger is doing so, though he clearly hopes his version will provide an indirect benefit to him by boosting his music career. “I saw this as an opportunity. Once it became absolutely famous, I took a step back and realized I can use this to promote myself,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “It’s a good bump in the direction I need.” EMI Music Publishing declined to comment.

Indeed, copyright owners have declined even to take action against more commercial mash-up and remix artists such as Gregg Gillis, aka “Girl Talk,” who sells songs consisting almost entirely of samples from well known pop and rock tunes.

Some artists and copyright reformers claim that re-mixes and mash-ups, especially when created for “non-commercial” purposes, are examples of fair uses, and therefore permitted under copyright law. But fair use arguments have not fared well in the sampling context, and even purely “amateur” re-workings of songs may take on a commercial character when distributed through profit-seeking sites like YouTube. The major labels, including Universal, all have deals with YouTube in which they split ad revenue from videos when a user-posted video gets played.

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