LVCI has a great post on pre-Internet music piracy. The pirate analogy feels more apt when there’s an actual boat involved.
The big change that’s occurred since Radio Caroline is that the marginal cost of reproducing music recordings has fallen to $0. I can send you a .zip file of an album for free and it doesn’t cost anything to “make” it. It’s also a non-rival good. If I have a physical LP, you can’t have the same LP. There’s a limited quantity. But I don’t lose an mp3 when I send it to you.
The recording industry says this means we need stronger and stronger intellectual property laws, but that doesn’t make sense. The goal of intellectual property is to grant someone temporary monopoly rents on their work, in areas where we think people wouldn’t try to invent without a financial incentive. But more music is being created than ever. It’s a veritable golden age for music listeners. Does anyone really think people won’t form bands if they can’t make a lot of money?