RECORDED MUSIC PRETTY much dropped out of my life during the 1990s. After years of spending most of my disposable income buying music and much of my personal and professional life listening to it, I don't think I purchased more than a handful of records or CDs during the whole decade. These days, I'm back to something like my old habits. What ended my long quiet period speaks to the issues surrounding Mike Godwin's cover piece, "Hollywood vs. the Internet: Why entertainment companies want to hack your computer" (page 26).What Godwin dubs "the Content Faction" is understandably scared to death of computer users' ability to make and disseminate nearly perfect copies of music, video, books, and other copyrighted material. But he argues that in pursuing a repressive legislative and technological fix--one that might change the very way computers are made--the Content Faction may well shoot itself in the foot.
My own experience suggests he's right. Back in the late 1980s, I worked at a couple of now-defunct music magazines: a heavy metal mag called Metallix that promised readers, "It'll rock you to shreds!" and an American version of the British pop mag Smash Hits. Between professional contacts and personal penchants, I soon amassed a sizable music collection that included over 5,000 records, at least 1,000 prerecorded tapes, and hundreds of relatively novel CDs.
Then I decided to run away from my low-level job in the rock 'n' roll circus, where journalists are the equivalent of the clowns who follow after elephants with a shovel and wheelbarrow. I went to grad school, a move that both ended my ride on the industry gravy train and robbed me of disposable income for a number of years.
Over time, I sold off parts of my collection and gave away most of the rest, perpetually in need of cash and tired of lugging milk crates heavy with LPs from apartment to apartment and city to city. When I could finally afford to buy music again, my interest had waned, partly because...