When I started this project, the one thing to which I hadn't given much thought was copyright law. Who had? Unless you were a lawyer, who cared about dusty old copyright law?
Well, since digital technology allowed us to copy things to and from our PCs, laptops, tablets and phones, everyone had better care about copyright law. Just ask Jamie Russet-Thomas of Brainerd, Minnesota, who was hit with a $1.9 million fine for downloading 24 songs (they would have cost her $23.76 on ITunes), or the thousands of kids whose metaphorical piggybanks were raided by the RIAA, the record business's legal front.
But it's not just about avoiding fines.
Copyright law has come to dominate many important aspects of modern life. And once again, as they have so many times, the record companies were the first businesses to try and come to grips with new ways people had invented to communicate with one another.
So far, the business has been struggling with the challenge digital technologies have presented them, and their continued existence as a force in the world hangs in the balance. If they don't figure the new world out, and soon, they're going to effectively disappear.
But if they go, what goes with them? The effective monopoly the record companies had on music for a century or so, based on the fact that we had to buy their products to hear most of the music we loved, created many scandals and much criminal behaviour, but also created some of the most important cultural treasures the twentieth century produced. Who does that if the record companies are gone? Anybody?
More questions than answers – but important questions – on Twilight of the Gods, part five.
- Robert Harris, Producer, Twilight of the Gods
Listen to Inside the Music on Radio 2 on Sunday 3 p.m. (3:30 NT) and Radio One on Sunday 9 p.m. (9:30 NT)
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on Jul 28, 2012