Swift is not the first to threaten to re-record her works. Prince and Def Leppard did so after arguing they were being unfairly compensated by their original labels. But it is unheard of move for an artists at her zenith. “You are essentially splitting dollars,” said Sammataro. “You don’t know how the streaming service, the radio station or even your fans are going to consume it. Will they listen to the master or the re-recorded version?”
In the past artists might not have taken this route because marketing and distributing the new versions themselves would have been prohibitively expensive. In the digital age, and with her fanbase, no such issues will hold Swift back. Re-recording a couple of hits might once have satisfied Swift but with relations so strained she may feel like dealing Big Machine a bigger blow.
There’s a name for societies where a small elite own property and everyone else rents that property from them: it’s called feudalism. DRM never delivered a world of flexible consumer choice, but it was never supposed to. Instead, twenty years on, DRM is revealed to be exactly what we feared: an oligarchic gambit to end property ownership for the people, who become tenants in the fields of greedy, confiscatory tech and media companies, whose inventiveness is not devoted to marvelous new market propositions, but, rather, to new ways to coerce us into spending more for less.
With her open letter and the high-profile back-and-forth, Swift is bringing visibility to one of the music industry’s longest standing issues. And while it’s not a new problem, Swift’s discussion of it was enough to encourage artists including Sky Ferreira and Halsey to come forward about their own difficulties with label deals and ownership.
The way we regulated social media platforms didn’t end harassment, extremism or disinformation. It only gave them more power and made the problem worse.
Beware the legal-industrial copyright complex
Rejecting years of settled precedent, a federal court in New York has ruled [PDF] that you could infringe copyright simply by embedding a tweet in a web page. Even worse, the logic of the ruling applies to all in-line linking, not just embedding tweets. If adopted by other courts, this legally and technically misguided decision would threaten millions of ordinary Internet users with infringement liability.