¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Musical culture and industry are in a state of flux, and the rapid changes we have witnessed since the turn of the 21st Century clearly have something to do with the explosion of networked digital technologies such as PCs, smartphones, portable media devices, and the Internet, which binds the rest together. On this much, nearly everyone can agree.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Where this book differs from the bulk of the commentary and coverage of these changes is in how these disruptions are framed. The recording industry, which has been very successful in setting the terms of the public debate thus far, paints a bleak portrait: a venerable industrial sector, bolstered by centuries of copyright law and responsible for billions of dollars in economic value, has been ransacked by digital pirates intent on destruction and the ignorant masses who have fallen under their sway. We see this story told all the time, in news articles, business reports and legal decisions. The only problem is, it’s not the whole story.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 2 As I have argued in this chapter, music is a fundamental aspect of human consciousness, akin to language or gesture, and the privatization of musical expression is a relatively new development in the scope of social history, motivated primarily by profit seeking and social regulation, rather than cultural innovation and the public interest. And ever since its inception, the music industry has been in a state of constant flux, seeking to exploit new technologies, expand its legal scope of powers, and otherwise “stack the deck” in its own self-interest, with the aim of naturalizing its unnatural monopoly.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Copyright laws are not handed down by God on stone tablets; they are written by legislators, who respond to lobbying by corporations and trade organizations (more on that in Chapter 9). In order to justify the creation and continued expansion of copyright, the music industry has had to identify a problem that the laws are intended to solve. From the beginning, this problem has been framed in terms of “piracy,” although the exact nature of the purported piratical threat has evolved along with the technological and legal environment, from the importation of foreign scores to the reproduction of domestic ones to the use of popular compositions on radio and recordings to the redistribution of popular recordings, and finally to “home taping” and online peer-to-peer sharing.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 If a pirate in Cicero’s day was the “enemy of all,” a malevolent agent exploiting the vulnerabilities of the weak and the outer boundaries of sovereignty in the interest of personal profit, consider who best fits that description today. Is it one of the tens of thousands of Americans who have been prosecuted for sharing songs with one another via LimeWire or BitTorrent? Is it one of the billions of people around the world who share music, videos, text and images via YouTube, Twitter and Facebook? Or is it one of a tiny handful of commercial enterprises that jealously protect their financial interests in our shared culture by maligning, surveilling, bankrupting and imprisoning those who are too obstinate to acquiesce, too poor to fight back, or too weak to resist?