Music Piracy In 1897

Think music piracy is a product of the internet era? The New York Times archives contain a story–dated June 13, 1897–-with the title “Music Pirates in Canada” (warning: link leads to a .pdf). More than a century ago, our supposedly friendly neighbors to the North were taking our sheet music, copying it, and selling fakes to consumers in the United States looking for a cheap deals on music. The original asking prices ranged from 20 to 40 cents per piece, while the copies were sold for two to five cents. In May of 1897, around 5,000,000 copies were made and sold. What’s strange is that the publishers of these pirated works were Canadian newspapers, who used their PO boxes as covers! American music publishers decided to combat this by attacking through the post office, using the completely harsh treatment of sending back the pirated material. That’ll show ’em! And the consumer doesn’t get their money back afterward.

Obviously, there are parallels here: the piracy located in another country, the cheap music deals, the stupid reaction of music’s governing bodies, and the consumer caught in the middle. The takeaway here is this: Et tu, Canada? Just because you hadn’t invented Triumph, Loverboy, and Rush yet doesn’t mean you had the right to steal our music! For shame.

It should also be noted that on the same page as this article is another story about a park policeman named Dooladdy watching a snake fight a bird. The Newspaper of Record, indeed.

Music Pirates In Canada [NYT; HT: Lizzyville]