Ownership of music and books in a digital world January 14, 2017Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Vexed, vexed I tell you. Discussing downloads and streaming last week one key issue seems to me to be the issue of personal ownership. This may seem odd or counterintuitive in respect of leftists, but it’s actually a good example of how contemporary media pushes in a way that removes ownership from individuals and gifts it to commercial enterprises. Personal ownership can be the antithesis of the private, the enclosed, the cut-off.
It seems to me that when we think of personal music collections, as was, it was never quite as clear cut as that term may seem. I had an album which someone else liked and I loaned it to them, or they taped it or subsequently ripped it, and vice versa. This generated something above the individual, something that was genuinely communal. Listening was always both about the individual and communal, appealing at different times to the solitary and the collective.
With streaming – and one can include Kindles and similar in this, the ownership of an artefact (file really) resides with the company that issues it. Personal individual ownership of the sort that was perhaps most characteristic of the 20th century – books, albums, whatever is removed from those who purchase it. Yet with streaming there’s still purchasing – there has to be. But it’s on a sort of loan basis. If a streaming provider goes to the wall that’s it. One’s individual ownership of tracks vanishes entirely. There’s the blackly entertaining example of Amazon pulling 1984 from Kindles some years back. That was rectified, but look at Netflix, how programmes come in and out of availability.
I find this problematic on many different levels. Personal ownership allows for borrowing and gifting in ways that streaming services don’t. I also, and perhaps this is the libertarian side of me, find it depressing to see private monopolies build up.
There’s something akin to the company store in mining towns about streaming. The sense that options for use are shut down rather than expanded, that ones monies only go so far. The sense that our lives – our autonomy, is made more rather than less contingent, more in the gift of those who have as against those who haven’t.
Some years back a friend gave me a drive with a heap of electronica and dance on it. I love both but there was something soulless about the experience. In the end of I deleted the files. Not because I don’t like the music, anything but, but because it came too easily and the resolution was 128kb and even to my poor ears didn’t sound that hot. There was too much of it. Group and group, album after album and again nothing curated, just a pile pushed across a table – as it were – to be consumed.
Again, where is this going to end? And who is going to push back against it?