P21
Music, digital media, and ontological politics: from 'piracy' to intellectual property

Convenors:
Aditi Deo (University of Oxford)
Georgina Born (University of Oxford )
Discussant:
Ravi Sundarum, Lawrence Liang
Location:
SIS Appadurai Committee Room
Start time:
5 April, 2012 at 15:00
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

In light of debates over the limitations of the paradigm of 'piracy' (Hayden, Larkin, Liang, Sundaram), this panel examines how notions of music as intellectual property are being mediated by digital technologies in a range of locales.

Long abstract:

Digital technologies are rapidly being adopted across the world for the production, distribution, and consumption of music, transforming how music is made and experienced, how it is propertized and commoditized, and how it is affectively imbued. The transposability of musical sounds and bytes of data in the digital age, and its implications for musical creativity and circulation, raise ontological questions about music as expressive culture and inaugurate an ontological politics concerned with how different agents and institutions conceive of and operationalize music as 'intellectual property'. In light of debates over the limitations of the paradigm of 'piracy' (Hayden, Larkin, Liang, Sundaram), this panel examines how notions of music as intellectual property are being mediated by digital technologies in a range of locales. Papers will focus ethnographically on the role of digital technologies in solidifying, challenging, and/or fracturing existing legal and vernacular conceptions of music as property. Presenters will excavate propertizing impulses in the digital distribution of popular musics, the digital recording and archiving of vernacular musics, and various manifestations of extra-legal music creation and circulation (or 'piracy') in diverse parts of the world, as well as exploring tactical resistance to these developments. Turning to practices embedded in everyday life to understand how music is propertized—as art, commodity, or heritage—will allow us critically to address questions of authorship, ownership, the nature of the musical object and of the musical commons, 'piracy' and the imputation of illegality in transacting music, and other pressing questions as they arise in digital contexts.