Over the past quarter-century or so, I have purchased the following incarnations of The Who’s Live at Leeds:
- The vinyl album
- The import version of the vinyl album (for the cool poster, which is still on my wall)
- The cassette tape (road trip!)
- The original CD issue (because vinyl is dead, mannn!)
- The CD reissue (remastered! with extra songs!)
- The “Deluxe Edition” 2-disc CD reissue (full live version of Tommy!)
And these are the ones that I remember! However, despite the fact that I’ve spent approximately $70 for this music over the years — and only once got that amazing poster, BTW — , apparently the RIAA has decided that they reserve the right to tell me when it is legal to rip it for my own personal use. Since this reversal of what they said as recently as a year ago, there is no doubt that they are going to eventually make it retroactive. I mean forget my iPod, or my hard drives, or even my CDs, are they going to get a warrant for those Who compilations I made and remade obsessively throughout the 80’s? Crap! I don’t even know where they are!
And forget The Who and Live at Leeds (or who’s next, which I’ve also bought a half-dozen times, too), what about all of those records that I purchased only once or twice? Especially the ones that I only bought twice, because those usually had songs that I loved and went on any number of mix tapes that I made for myself and — ohmygod!– other people. Oh no! I gave music to other people!
Well, there is plenty of evidence out there against me, so I might as well admit this: of the hundreds of cassettes and CDs that I’ve made over the years, not all of them were for my personal use. Some of them were for personal gain. Not financial gain, but something even worse: sexual gain. I totally stole music from R.E.M. and U2 and Nirvana and Bob Dylan (which never worked) and The Rolling Stones and The Replacements and Whiskeytown and so many many others just to get girls to like me. I exploited these artists; their blood and tears and their years and years and years of toil and sweat for my own selfish purposes, never once even thinking that someday, the RIAA might decide how completely wrong and illegal anything even remotely close to my activities were. Me and my stupid mind! Stupid! Stupid!
So I spent hours, days, weeks, months, years copying vinyl to cassette, CD to CD, mp3 to iPod, never once realizing that — instead of this copying of music I so stupidly, foolishly, selfishly thought that I owned just because I spent my own money on it — I should have been buying the actual albums and cassettes and CDs for these people. Sure, it would have been impersonal, and I — like many other idiots — thought that there was some kind of art in recontextualizing songs for other people, but it would have been legal, according to the RIAA.
There is no way of getting around it — despite the fact that I have purchased thousands of albums and cassettes and CDs and downloads over the years, as recently as last week — in the eyes of the RIAA, I am nothing but a common criminal. And since there is nothing I can do about it, and they are no doubt gonna get me anyway, I figure that the least I can do is stop spending all of that money on music.