Music Piracy In… A Series Of Posts

11.25.10 Posted in Blog by

In my recent essay Why Piracy Is Good For Innovation that was published on Hypebot, I aimed to shed some light on an underexposed part of music piracy: how we can benefit from music piracy. As the news coverage about music piracy is very one-sided and the negative effects of piracy are often amplified, we fail to recognize the versatility and instructive values in it. In the series “Music Piracy in…” I attempt to come to a better understanding of music piracy. This time by looking at its history and by creating more insight in the cultures and motivations behind music piracy.

Ubiquitous one-sided views on music piracy

Although being debated for decades, (online) music piracy is still a hot issue. International trade agreements are being constructed to give more power to copyright enforcement bodies and reports with strong anti-piracy sections have already been accepted by for example the European Parliament. These reports and trade agreements approach the practices that are often depicted as music piracy only from one point of view. This point of view could be summarized by the following question: “How can we prevent and ultimately stop the existence of music piracy?”.

You might ask yourself what is wrong with this question and this approach. Well, what is wrong with this approach in my opinion is that it regards the practices that are designated as piracy as an intrinsically bad, hence the use of the word ‘piracy’. It takes these practices as occurrences that have to be eliminated since they would do harm to cultural diversity and innovation. When closely examining these convictions however, it appears that many of them can be falsified. In my previously mentioned essay Why Piracy Is Good For Innovation for example, I already countered the popular anti-piracy argument that these practices are slowing down innovation. This proves that much of what has been written about music piracy, and which in turn has influenced the construction of policy, approaches these practices from a very one-sided point of view.

The history of music piracy

In order to say something useful about today’s ‘problems’ with music piracy, let alone to say something about the future, it is very useful to take a look at the history of music piracy first. How has piracy evolved over the years? What did we (fail to) learn from it? Therefore, in a series of posts I will explore the history of music piracy and shed some light on the cultures, motivations, and influences of practices that most of the time are depicted simply with the inclusive and very negative word ‘piracy’.

This historical overview is based on a chapter in my thesis in which I trace the history of music piracy. In my thesis I explore this in order to find out how our understanding of music piracy has been changing over decades and to get a clear view on what music piracy actually is.

With this series I try to nuance the image of piracy, try to illuminate some of the underexposed aspects of piracy, show some of the motives behind these practices, and try to explain what values there lie in the history of music piracy. This knowledge can subsequently be used by anybody for their own benefits. I hope you enjoy reading along and if you have some comments or additions please let me know! Let’s learn from music piracy!

So far the following posts have appeared in this series:

Music Piracy In… The Beginning
Music Piracy In… The 1900s
Music Piracy In… The 1910s
Music Piracy In… The 1950s
Music Piracy In… The 1980s

3 Responses to “Music Piracy In… A Series Of Posts”

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  2. […] the series “Music Piracy In…” I attempt to come to a better understanding of music piracy. By looking at its history and by […]

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