The Piracy Crusade: How the Music Industry's War on Sharing Destroys Markets and Erodes Civil Liberties (Science/Technology/Culture)
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In the decade and a half since Napster first emerged, forever changing the face of digital culture, the claim that "internet pirates killed the music industry" has become so ubiquitous that it is treated as common knowledge. Piracy is a scourge on legitimate businesses and hard-working artists, we are told, a "cybercrime" similar to identity fraud or even terrorism.
In The Piracy Crusade, Aram Sinnreich critiques the notion of "piracy" as a myth perpetuated by today's cultural cartels―the handful of companies that dominate the film, software, and especially music industries. As digital networks have permeated our social environment, they have offered vast numbers of people the opportunity to experiment with innovative cultural and entrepreneurial ideas predicated on the belief that information should be shared widely. This has left the media cartels, whose power has historically resided in their ability to restrict the flow of cultural information, with difficult choices: adapt to this new environment, fight the changes tooth and nail, or accept obsolescence. Their decision to fight has resulted in ever stronger copyright laws and the aggressive pursuit of accused infringers.
Yet the most dangerous legacy of this "piracy crusade" is not the damage inflicted on promising start-ups or on well-intentioned civilians caught in the crosshairs of file-sharing litigation. Far more troubling, Sinnreich argues, are the broader implications of copyright laws and global treaties that sacrifice free speech and privacy in the name of combating the phantom of piracy―policies that threaten to undermine the foundations of democratic society.
themselves who have devoted hundreds of millions of dollars and considerable political influence to framing activities such as peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing and unlicensed streaming in these terms, and these initiatives have been so successful that content-sharing websites such as The Pirate Bay and pro-sharing political movements like the Pirate Party have willingly wrapped themselves in the Jolly Roger, in a form of rhetorical one-upmanship. The similarities between today’s piracy crusade
for the music retailers to retain some profit.19 This policy lasted from the mid-1990s until 2000, arguably maintaining an artificially inflated value for the compact disc market beyond its expiration date (fig. 6). Figure 6. Twentieth-century music retail transformation and global music sales revenue. The 1980s–90s also saw the emergence of a “blockbuster economy” in the music industry, in which an increasing portion of the record labels’ fortunes rested in the market performance of a
soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.27 In addition to punishing businesses and individuals who have directly infringed on intellectual property, recent efforts have focused on expanding the scope of what is known as “secondary liability”28—in lay terms, helping third parties to copy or redistribute content illegally. In the United States, the DMCA staked out an initial compromise: While the anti-circumvention measures stipulated by WIPO made it illegal to publish a webpage linking to a site hosting
chaotic and unpredictable element of the political landscape. There are at least three reasons why this has happened. First, the rapidity with which technology, culture, and industry now coevolve has made it difficult for any legacy party to effectively integrate a consistent IP position into its platform. For instance, should a small-government, pro-business, unilateralist Republican support or reject a copyright bill that increases federal regulation, funding, and power in the name of
approach the post-silicon era (for lack of a better term), these problems are likely to be compounded even further. As the tools for shaping our physical environments and biological destinies come to look increasingly like those we now use to create, alter, reproduce, and transmit our text, photos, videos, and music, what aspect of the human experience will not be, in some way, constituted by the act of “copying”? What region of our personal and public lives will not therefore be subject to