"In an age where we take so much for granted—our rights to know about spyware, our right to know about how we can or cannot share memories and exchange files—this book is a primer for those who are more than curious about the rapidly changing landscape of American copyright law. In the same vein as Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture and Siva Vaidhyanathan's Anarchist in the Library, Joana Demers's Steal this Music gives us more tools to take apart the all too confusing landscape of modern copyright law. It's a clear and concise history of the rights and wrongs of copyright in an age when it's getting harder and harder to tell where the line is between the need to control how materials are distributed in a world of networks, and the natural inclination we all have to SHARE!!! This book is a timely wake up call that these things are all blurring more rapidly than many of us suspect."
—Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid, author of Rhythm Science
"A concise, clearly written book that deserves to be read well beyond the academic community . . . Demers cautions that the debate on cultural expression is too important to be left to the self-interest of intellectual property rights holders, whether individual or corporate. It concerns us all. Steal This Music is an excellent introduction as to how and why."
"Demers offers a concise, but thorough analysis of how intellectual property law has struggled to define and regulate music. . . . Demers provides a fascinating account of how law shapes music and, in turn, music responds to those regulations."
"An absorbing new book . . . It is impressive that so trim a book can give the reader so broad a sense of how musical creativity is being affected by the present intellectual property regime."
—Inside Higher Ed
"Steal This Music's strengths [are] its clarity, its vivid anecdotes, its historical grasp, and its fair and balanced assessment of grim facts. . . . Books such as Steal This Music, while not advocating a revolution, prove that articulate observers like Joanna Demers are speaking on behalf of everyone who fears that fair use is slipping away for ever with each new triumph in court for a content provider over a musician, performer, or consumer who has often done much less than what Demers’s title seems to exhort all of us to do."
—Popular Music and Society
Demers is concerned about the fate of transformative appropriation—the creative process by which artists and composers borrow from, and respond to, other musical works. In the United States, only two elements of music are eligible for copyright protection: the master recording and the composition (lyrics and melody) itself. Harmony, rhythm, timbre, and other qualities that make a piece distinctive are virtually unregulated. This two-tiered system had long facilitated transformative appropriation while prohibiting blatant forms of theft. The advent of digital file sharing and the specter of global piracy changed everything, says Demers. Now, record labels and publishers are broadening the scope of IP “infringement” to include allusive borrowing in all forms: sampling, celebrity impersonation—even Girl Scout campfire sing-alongs.
Paying exorbitant licensing fees or risking even harsher penalties for unauthorized borrowing have become the only options for some musicians. Others, however, creatively sidestep not only the law but also the very infrastructure of the music industry. Moving easily between techno and classical, between corporate boardrooms and basement recording studios, Demers gives us new ways to look at the tension between IP law, musical meaning and appropriation, and artistic freedom.
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