Tape Piracy, Jerry Lee Lewis, And You

There's been a lot of talk on Reverb lately about internet piracy. Duff's recent piece on intellectual property and copyright infrigement set the comment forum a blaze with responses, including one from our own Jesse Sykes who was given her own platform on the subject here.

The debate over PIPA and SOPA legislation incensed the public, roused impassioned feelings from hard-working artists and musicians, and through its rhetoric and file sharing website closures, has reignited the conversation about illegal downloading.

The clamorous exchange on the issue has been so deafening I was relieved to come across a voice of perspective from the past. That voice: Jerry Lee Lewis, who, according to the "Buyer's Bulletin" record sleeve housing my boyfriend's Johnny Rodriguez's Love Put A Song In My Heart album, was the one-time poster boy for anti-piracy and a reported "tape-smasher" of any pirated 8-track album that crossed his path.

Here's a link to a copy of the bulletin I found online--another crate digger found the same sleeve on a Kraftwerk album, and the blogger goes on reflect amusingly, "the image of Jerry Lee Lewis destroying a rack of bootleg tapes at a gas station is just too fantastic for words, and should maybe be immortalized one day in a Socialist Realism style narrative painting."

But if piracy was a big issue back then--Rodriguez's album was released in 1975, Kraftwerk's Autobahn in 1974--and notwithstanding that the label-issued sleeve reeks of corporate-minded propaganda, something about the bulletin's headline, "Tape Piracy: Everyone's Problem" still rings eerily true. Musicians still expect to get paid for their work--that real-life work-for-pay expectation hasn't dissolved in the digital age. Record labels who promote those musicians deserve their cut. And goons who want free stuff are still out there, too.

Wherever this conversation is headed, there's a small indication that Jerry Lee Lewis gleefully destroying "a rack of bootleg tapes" years ago set into motion a current wave of interest--of all things right now--in the cassette. If there are clues from our pirated past that could help us address the subject with more clarity nowadays, they might be here in this little moment of Zen:

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