The Morals of Mixing: Cassettes, Home Taping, and the Emergence of the Intellectual Property Defense Industry
IDA CORDELIA BEAM DISTINGUISHED VISITING PROFESSOR LECTURE
ADRIAN JOHNS, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
"The Morals of Mixing: Cassettes, Home Taping, and the Emergence of the Intellectual Property Defense Industry"
The era of the cassette tape plays a central role in popular histories of the digital revolution. When looking for antecedents for the freedoms that they associate with digital networks, acolytes have focused enthusiastically on practices like home taping and objects like mix tapes from the 1970s-80s. In fact, the history of cassettes is more ambiguous than that, and has more ambivalent moral connotations. Controversies over cassettes occasioned the emergence not only of a moral economy of sharing, but also of an industry devoted to constraining and redefining that moral economy. It would uphold intellectual property through a creative mixing of its own, of new technologies, laws, and policies. This industry grew apace with practices of sharing. It is today a leading – but largely unmonitored – shaper of information culture itself.
Adrian Johns is a professor in the Department of History and chairs the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science. He is the author of Death of a Pirate:British Radio and the Making of the Information Age (W.W. Norton, 2010), Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates (University of Chicago Press, 2009), and The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (University of Chicago Press, 1998).
Co-Sponsored by the Departments of Communication Studies, English, History,and the Center for the Book and College of Law