Sound Investments: Historical Perspectives on Music Ownership and Piracy


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships




This project uses the recent debates about music piracy and illegal downloading on the Internet to open up new historical questions about the meaning and measure of music ownership. It shows that the filesharing debates, while conducted in the language of computer technology and copyright law, are fueled by more fundamental historical struggles over the role music should play in our economy and culture. A series of interdisciplinary case studies—ranging from antebellum slave songs to the recent market for out-of-print jazz recordings—demonstrates the tangled web of investments people have made in music and reveals that the current crisis in the music industry requires holistic attention to the multiple ways in which music creates cultural and economic value.