In the decade and a half since Napster first emerged, forever changing the face of digital culture, the claim that “internet pirates killed the music industry” has become so ubiquitous that it is treated as common knowledge. Piracy is a scourge on legitimate businesses and hard-working artists, we are told, a “cybercrime” similar to identity fraud or even terrorism.
In The Piracy Crusade, Aram Sinnreich critiques the notion of “piracy” as a myth perpetuated by today’s cultural cartels—the handful of companies that dominate the film, software, and especially music industries. As digital networks have permeated our social environment, they have offered vast numbers of people the opportunity to experiment with innovative cultural and entrepreneurial ideas predicated on the belief that information should be shared widely. This has left the media cartels, whose power has historically resided in their ability to restrict the flow of cultural information, with difficult choices: adapt to this new environment, fight the changes tooth and nail, or accept obsolescence. Their decision to fight has resulted in ever stronger copyright laws and the aggressive pursuit of accused infringers.
Yet the most dangerous legacy of this “piracy crusade” is not the damage inflicted on promising start-ups or on well-intentioned civilians caught in the crosshairs of file-sharing litigation. Far more troubling, Sinnreich argues, are the broader implications of copyright laws and global treaties that sacrifice free speech and privacy in the name of combating the phantom of piracy—policies that threaten to undermine the foundations of democratic society.
"This is a book that needed to be written and Sinnreich is the perfect author for it. There are critiques and histories of piracy, and there is at least one state of the music industry book, but this book makes a very different case by critically interrogating the rhetoric and effects of both piracy and anti-piracy efforts."
"Sinnreich provides a sophisticated economic and political analysis of the evolution of the anti-piracy agenda, identifies major stakeholders, and does so with brisk and reader-friendly prose."
"A fascinating takedown of the corporate anti-music-piracy movement, packed with history, interviews, and great pop-cultural references, from REAL pirates (the swashbuckling kind) to Harry Smith to 'The Pink Panther Returns' to Amanda Palmer. My favorite phrase is 'cyborgian sexual innuendos.'"
"Sinnreich employs evocative prose and sufficient detail that should convince even skeptical readers that the traditional music industry (or “legacy cartels” as he calls them) must fundamentally change or die....Sinnreich’s description of the experiences of vast and diverse numbers of individuals and communities of digital file sharing and of the bargains struck
as history unfolds into the future appears lucid and predictive."
"The book is neither mere advocacy nor a justification for file sharing or a screed against the music industry, but instead presents a carefully researched and presented argument for why the music industry in its anti-piracy efforts has had effects that go beyond merely regulating how music is shared online... The Piracy Crusade is an excellent addition to a growing list of literature on (digital) media piracy"
"The Piracy Crusade is a rhetorical tour de force against the over-the-top claims made by big media in favor of extending existing copyright law. It is, simply, a threat to democracy itself to promote the extension of both prosecution and surveillance of citizens on behalf of gigantic profit-seeking media conglomerates."
"We very much recommend you read this book... The points made are lucid, clear and rapid-fire. This is a conversation more musicians and fans need to have. It’s a hard pill to swallow for the industry, but they must swallow it. There are already new disruptions on the horizon, and if they don’t want to repeat the loss and grief of the post-Napster era, they’d be good to read this book too."
"Sinnreich goes into depth on how peer-to-peer tech affected the industry, and walks through the history of the war on file-sharing by looking at each tactic through the lens of the famous "Five Stages of Grief." There's something interesting in here for veterans of the file-sharing wars and newcomers alike."
"Thorough and tremendously thought-provoking, even if you already follow these issues closely.... The book is a tremendous contribution to this discussion and a worthwhile read if you want to really understand some of the core issues that underlie the fight over copyright."
Sinnreich speaks about The Piracy Crusade and related issues frequently. The book has also received some gratifying attention beyond the reviews. Some examples include: