“Techno, Frankenstein and copyright”: the open-access edition

I’m pleased to announce that my most-cited article is now openly accessible, courtesy of Cambridge University Press. The article documents the case of Sony’s unlicensed exploitation of Underground Resistance’s acclaimed “Jaguar” track in 1999, demonstrating how “piracy” is the big labels’ own business as usual – and how independents lacking the resources for legal recourse can fight back in other ways.

McCutcheon, Mark A. “Techno, Frankenstein and copyright.” Popular Music 26.2 (2007): 259-80.

This essay argues that the widespread but not widely recognised adaptation of Frankenstein in contemporary dance music problematises the ‘technological’ constitution of modern copyright law as an instrument wielded by corporations to exert increasing control over cultural production. The argument first surveys recent accounts of intellectual property law’s responses to sound recording technologies, then historicises the modern discourse of technology, which subtends such responses, as a fetish of industrial capitalism conditioned by Frankenstein. The increasing ubiquity of cinematic Frankenstein adaptations in the latter two decades of the twentieth century outlines the popular cultural milieu in which Detroit techno developed its futuristic aesthetic, and which provided subsequent dance music producers with samples that contributed to techno’s popularisation. These cultural and economic contexts intersect in an exemplary case study: the copyright infringement dispute in 1999 and 2000 between Detroit’s Underground Resistance (UR) techno label and the transnational majors Sony and BMG.

By the way, if you don’t know “Jaguar,” by Underground Resistance’s Aztec Mystic (a.k.a. DJ Rolando), you’re in for a treat, from your earholes to your shakin’ booty.

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