It’s book-assigning season at colleges and universities across the United States, at least for those on the semester system. We just wanted to flog Alex’s book Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the Twentieth Century, originally published by Oxford University Press in 2013.
Because it was such a smash success as an academic title, selling literally dozens of copies, OUP decided to rerelease it in paperback. It’s cheaper now! And the back cover now features blurbs by people that the author did not supply with copious amounts of coke–actual, impartial reviewers.
If you are teaching courses on media studies, intellectual property, American cultural history, history of technology, or simply the twentieth-century United States, this is a book that could fit well in your syllabus.
Here are some articles related to the book:
The End of Ownership, OUP Blog
“No Pakistanis”: The Racial Satire the Beatles Don’t Want You to Hear, Salon
Forget Copyright! We’ve Always Stolen Music, Salon
Gift and Curse of Music–Haiti’s Fight for Copyright, Life of the Law
The History of Music Piracy, Daily History
How Can Musicians Survive in a Streaming Economy?, Aeon
And here are people singing its praises:
“This book is for music lovers and those of a certain age who remember artists from the Jazz and Rock days of the 1960s when tape recorders and vinyl were in place and bootlegged recordings of Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin were the in-thing to have. You can see how [Cummings] has enjoyed researching the detailed background of music piracy which makes this book a jolly good read providing the history of music piracy from the late 19th century onwards.”– Ursula Smartt, Entertainment Law Review
“Offers a detailed narrative account of how [copyright] issues became so complicated – and how, in the face of corporate pressure, they’re becoming brutally simple…Cummings has provided a usable, musical past.”–Jim Cullen, History News Network
“Valuable…Cummings’ book makes clear that piracy will continue, and that that is far from being a bad thing.”–Reason
“From Supreme Court battles over player piano rolls to the music industry’s $75 trillion lawsuit against Limewire, Democracy of Sound shows how we arrived at today’s debates about music ownership and piracy. Cummings is not only a skilled historian, but also a lively story-teller who can explain complex copyright issues with admirable clarity. For anyone with an opinion about the politics, economics, and ethics of music copying, this book offers essential perspective.”–David Suisman, author of Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music
“Piracy may be the dominant issue troubling musicians and the culture industries today, but as Alex Cummings shows, struggles over appropriation, sharing, and theft have long shaped the entire history of recorded sound and the music business. Combining legal, cultural, and business history, Democracy of Sound elegantly and impartially illuminates how Americans made music into a thing, while fighting bitterly over who would gain access to that music. Anyone with any interest in the future of copyright or in our cultural past should read this important book.”–Charles F. McGovern, author of Sold American: Consumption and Citizenship, 1890-1945
“Beautifully crafted, intelligently researched, and cogently argued, Democracy of Sound offers readers a compelling analysis of the changing legal status of recorded music in the United States from the 1870s to the present. Many books have been written about intellectual property; few have done more to make its significance accessible to the general reader. It will appeal not only to specialists in American studies, music, and law, but also to anyone who cares about American popular culture, past and present.”–Richard John, author of Network Nation