History Department
History Department

Assistant Professor Karl Miller receives fellowship to study the long history of music piracy

Wed, May 13, 2009

"I have designed 'Sound Investments' as an intervention into recent debates about digital file sharing and piracy. The traditional music industry is crumbling as computer users download millions of tracks off the Internet without paying music creators," said Miller in explaining the crux of his research.

Both sides of the issues agree that file sharing is a recent development since affordable digital technologies have made it relatively easy to copy music. But at the same time, they reach back to long-argued debates between advocates of legal and cultural models of musical ownership.

Opponents argue that the material is copyrighted and therefore protected by the law. They view it as theft, pure and simple, and turn a deaf ear to people's moral sense of investment and ownership in the music they hold dear to their everyday lives.

The proponents of wanting to continue to download music scoff at the copyright issue, the challenges of technology, or the simple fact of paying musicians for their work. "'Sound Investments' will show 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, our culture, and our everyday lives," Miller said.

This fellowship is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in honor of Charles A. Ryskamp, who was a literary scholar, and director of both a library and museum. The fellowship is instrumental in providing humanities professors who are either assistant or untenured with the necessary funding to make a substantial advancement in their research. Recipients must have already made significant contributions in their specific field that has advanced it and have a very detailed and comprehensive plan for their research project.

Related Links:
Assistant Prof. Karl Miller
American Council of Learned Societies

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