Music Piracy: Around Longer Than You Think

It’s easy to suppose that the cassette tape begat music piracy, and in a way that’s true – but while it may have facilitated easy, cheap, and widespread music piracy, it certainly wasn’t the beginning of the problem. In fact, the issue goes back to the grandparents of today’s piracy-happy youth.

Yes, I said grandparents.

For some sort of inexplicable reason, distant in-laws recently dumped on me a large pile of homemade records – you know, big black things with a hole in the middle? – produced by some even more distant in-laws – and assorted friends and neighbors, as far as anyone can tell – between roughly 1941 and 1948, according to the dates on ’em. They were made with a Recordio or similar sort of set, though it’s not terribly clear why. Despite their wartime origin, none that I’ve listened to so far seem to contain any personal messages to anyone; rather, they’re a mix of people singing (often badly) popular music of the time, accompanying themselves (often badly) on guitar or piano, as well as – gasp! – music clearly recorded off the radio.

Horrible, isn’t it? Some families have various sorts of skeletons in their closets – ancestors who were axe-murderers, or or who didn’t go to college, or who dirtied their hands in trade; others have ancestors who were unsuccessful bootleggers, or who fought on the wrong side in the War of 1812, or slowly went mad after catching syphilis from a German call-girl and leaving it untreated. Other families have to content with much darker secrets: ancestors who were, even before the RIAA existed, and during a time of war, engaging in shameful and unabashed acts of music piracy.

I certainly don’t want to imply that music piracy is a good or noble thing – but I’ll certainly admit that it’s an activity with a long history – longer, I expect, than most people imagine. That doesn’t necessarily make it right – but in some cases, at least, it makes music piracy – fairly literally – a family tradition. Go figure, eh?

Published in: Geekiness, General, History | on February 20th, 2009| Comments Off on Music Piracy: Around Longer Than You Think

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.