¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The early years of the 21st Century have been a tumultuous time within musical industry and culture. Many people working throughout the recording, publishing and broadcasting sectors are legitimately concerned that they may lose their jobs, or even their careers. The new digital communications tools that have changed the way we work, play and express ourselves have also altered our relationship to music. On the one hand, they have whetted our appetite for making, hearing and sharing it in greater volume and variety than ever before. On the other, they have underscored the limitations of 20th Century music technologies, and in so doing have undermined their viability in the marketplace.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 To many within the music industry, the problem appears very clear. Enabled by illegal technologies, millions of consumers have turned to “piracy” because the lure of free music is too great to pass up. This renders traditional commerce impossible. Why would anyone pay for something when it’s just sitting there, waiting to be taken? The only possible way forward is to use copyright laws, security technologies, and consumer education to contain the threat and mitigate the damage.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 To many outside the industry, the situation seems equally simple, but the blame is reversed. Instead of supporting or embracing exciting new platforms that allow people to enjoy music to the fullest extent possible, the industry has attempted to squelch innovation at every turn, using copyright laws, security technologies and propaganda as their weapons. The only possible way forward is to move deeper and deeper underground, using cutting-edge technologies that the industry hasn’t yet learned about or figured out how to kill.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Both arguments appear to have merit, but they rely on such irreconcilable vantage points that they can never generate a meaningful dialogue, let alone come to a satisfying accord. What both viewpoints lack is a degree of historical perspective. Where did this cat-and-mouse game begin? How did the music industry come to possess the powers it wields? When did music sharers become “pirates?” In this chapter, I will argue that music began as a “public good,” and trace the course of its gradual propertization, as well as the development of the legal framework that enabled this process. I will also examine the history of “music piracy,” and discuss some of the ways in which our uses of the term today diverge from those of the past.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Although my own vantage point is largely critical of the music industry, I also sympathize with those who feel threatened by the changes at hand. It is my hope that, by providing a broader context for today’s conflicts both in this chapter and throughout the book, I can help to navigate a better path forward than the stonewalling, violence and recrimination that have characterized industry-consumer relations thus far.