Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back by Robert Levine, published by Doubleday, 2011. 320 pages.
In Free Ride, Robert Levine argues that the Internet is destroying the culture industry as we know it. Levine is a former executive editor of Billboard magazine and has contributed to Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone. The main premise of the book is that the creators of content have no incentive to continue to be creative since the Internet has spawned both digital piracy and a culture of free content. Levine blames inadequate copyright law and a powerful lobbying effort that transferred control of digital content to telecommunications giants. The author goes to great lengths to explain the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and how it allows "aggregators" such as YouTube and the Huffington Post to repackage the content of others. As the title of the book suggests, Levine explains that digital pirates and "content aggregators" are allowed to take a free ride at the content creator's expense leading us down a path devoid of a creative culture.
The author's emphasis is on what has already happened in the music and movie industries. But it is interesting for those of us in the book world to apply these lessons to the developing ebook industry.
Levine does propose solutions such as forcing "content aggregators" to proactively scan for copyrighted material and treating personal copyright violations like speeding tickets instead of a major crime. The book is written with a strong bias in the favor of media providers such as large newspapers and network television. However, even with the bias the book is an entertaining read and the history of the DMCA makes the book worth a read.
-- Reviewed by Andy Martin