Stephen Witt plans to publish his ﬁrst book, “How Music Got Free,” in June. The new book aims at exposing exactly how the rise of digital music piracy began. “How Music Got Free” written by Stephen Witt chronicles online piracy origins and traces the illegal moves back to one of the largest music leak rings ever. Witt’s narrative speaks in detail about the involvement of the German audio engineers who invented the mp3, factory worker Dell Glover who leaked nearly two thousand albums over the course of a decade, and music executive Doug Morris.
“How Music Got Free” places emphasis on the illegal release of rap & hip-hop records, but ultimately the piracy practices Glover, Morris and others engaged in affected all genres and revolutionized an entire art form. How Music Got Free isn’t just a story of the music industry—it’s a must-read history of the Internet itself.
Check out an excerpt via The New Yorker below:
In January, 2003, Glover leaked 50 Cent’s official début, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” to Kali. It became the bestselling U.S. album of the year. He followed that up with albums from Jay Z, G Unit, Mary J. Blige, Big Tymers, and Ludacris, and then began the following year with Kanye West’s début, “The College Dropout.” After a scare, in which Glover worried that a release might be traced to him, the timing of leaks became more and more a point of focus. Glover’s leaks began to hit the Internet about two weeks before the CDs were due in stores, neither so early that the leak could be traced to the plant nor so late that RNS risked being bested by other pirates.
The group’s ascendancy came during a period of heightened scrutiny by law enforcement. In April, 2004, the F.B.I. and foreign law-enforcement agencies conducted coördinated raids in eleven countries, identifying more than a hundred pirates. The R.I.A.A.’s anti-piracy unit was staffed with investigators, who hung around the chat rooms of the Scene and learned its language. They tried to infiltrate the Scene, and tracked the leaked material and its dissemination throughout the Internet. Their research began to point them to one increasingly powerful crew, RNS, and they shared their findings with the F.B.I.