Before technology allowed for recorded music, it was a pretty difficult thing to steal. You’d listen to the medieval minstral and maybe sing it to yourself after they’d left town. Heck, I’m sure that’s what they wanted. In those days, money only happened when they we’re ‘in the room.’ But then music changed…. it was something you could listen to when the musician wasn’t present.
When we entered the magnetic tape era, it become relatively easy to copy or ‘steal’ music for the first time. When I was a teenager there were a few ways of making copies of music:
Tape it off the radio: Wait patiently during the American Top 40 for your favourite song to come on, and hope like hell the DJ doesn’t talk over the top of it and screw it up. It was annoying to hear their voice each time your re-listened to it.
Tape it off the vinyl record: Have a friend who had the money to buy the record and tape record it onto your tape. We’d often do a swap – buy one record each, and tape each others – it was very give and take. A bit like the web should be – let others access your files while you access theirs. The basic economics of trade – by sharing we both had more.
Tape it off a tape: The old school double decker tape recorder – put the tape in and make another version off it.
Steal it from a music store: Heck, I’m sure some people did this, in those days it was the only way to get a perfect recording. All the other methods above had quality issues as the copies were imperfect, until…
… we entered the digital age. All of a sudden anyone could make a perfect copy, from perfect strangers. Napster…. Limewire…. Kazaar……Pirate Bay…. Youtube. Some got shut down, but the music never stopped, and the battle is still alive. It’s a battle people selling recorded music will never, ever win. The technology is an organism with its own agenda. So what happens next when there is no device or host of the music?
“What – no host? What are you talking about Steve?”
20 years from now you’ll have a chip with petabytes of standard holding capacity. It’ll be attached to your body, and most likely inside it permanently. It will be an extension of our brain capacity in much the same way as our notebooks, libraries and computers are today. Except, it will record everything perfectly. It won’t just be what we interpret, it will be an exact copy and it will be inside us. Every sound, every song, every visual, every movie we ever hear or see will be on recall on demand for us to re-listen to and re-watch on demand. We only need to be exposed to it once and we’ll have a perfect copy, forever.
Will that be stealing?
It will be difficult to police, because the technology will arrive and be implemented into ‘people’ before most industries realise the implications – especially those pertaining to copyright. When our technology merges with our biology, when it becomes part of our permanent memory and experience how can it be stopped? How will corporations even know what we are holding in our organic data banks?
The reality is that all biology and technology is built upon the concept of ‘copying’. Everything from single cell organisms, to our DNA, to manufacturing, to emergent technologies. Copying is ‘the’ feature, not a bug. Any business model built on this idea that all copies are controlled by the originator is flawed. It’s a business model that worked for a blip of time for humanity during the 20th century – it was the anomaly. If any business wants to survive in the future, it should be built around the idea where things getting copied is what you actually want.