“While Ruen assembles an impressive arsenal of support for his position, the entire crux of his argument lays in a simple premise: that an artist has the exclusive right to ‘distribute works in a manner as s/he chooses’ and are entitled to ‘extend that right… to any legal business partner.’ It’s a statement so self-evident that it shouldn’t even need to be defended; however, given the historical context surrounding the freeloading debate, it becomes much easier to see how we, as a society, have lost sight of this.”
“Ruen’s book is a detailed look at his own personal relationship with the music industry, as well as an investigation into how and why our culture views the practice as it does. He interviews the very artists whose lives influenced his shift in thinking. ‘I don’t know why the angry armchair quarterbacks would pick this issue,’ the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn tells Ruen, ‘…music is being separated from the rest of commerce.’”
“Like most people, I was saddened to learn of the recent self-inflicted death of 26-year-old Aaron Swartz—the wunderkind computer mind and tireless Internet freedom activist who helped galvanize public support to defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2012.”
With Cory Doctorow, Jonathan Coulton and others.
“A new book called Freeloading, by Chris Ruen, focuses on the fallout of the free content economy for artists who might loosely be grouped in Hyden’s not-Black Keys category–more avant-garde, less well-known, and less prosperous. It’s an agonizing, difficult book for anyone who both loves music and has illegally downloaded it.”
“Ruen explores the complicated morality of the downloading world – something which millions of Australians have indulged in, even though it’s effectively a form of theft – and picks apart some of the arguments people use to justify it. He looks at the past, through the heyday of the Napster download service and its stoush with Metallica, and takes a look towards an uncertain future.”
“Chris Ruen is himself a former prolific downloader who’s been converted. His book, FreeLoading, argues that there’s a powerful moral case against downloading.”
“This is all rapidly approaching a crisis point where entire industries will function completely on free labor, or cease to exist altogether. And we as consumers are totally culpable. We’re the ones who are choosing to attribute no value to what people create.”
“If careless, we all might become servomechanisms of our digital selves, unnervingly echoed by the popular sentiment, “You can’t fight technology.” The more we embrace the authenticity of our digital selves, our real lives naturally feel less important in comparison to the images and “friends” we find on our faithful, mirror-like screens.”
“By using the wrong word—the wrong symbol— as the keystone of any discourse, that discourse will eventually collapse from its own shoddy construction, leaving a messy pile of mortar that must be cleared before we can cross over to the gates to progress.”
Piece I wrote for the preeminent Australian music webzine Faster Louder
Long and interesting talk with David Newhoff from the Illusion of More blog
A lengthy excerpt of Freeloading published in the prestigious Australian Financial Review.
“As some people have started reacting to the free culture espoused by Lawrence Lessig in the 2000s — books such as Free Ride by Robert Levine and Freeloading by Chris Ruen, and the Trichordist blog by David Lowery — Palmer sees free culture intertwined with a patronage system that’s enabled by technologies like social media and platforms like Kickstarter.”
“In Freeloading, Chris outlines the inherent tension between digital technologies and content in a very tight-yet-entertainingly storied set of three parts. The personal saga outlines the journalist’s intention to wade into the moral and financial dilemma.”
“Freeloading: the perfect gift for that music-obsessed young person in your family that you’re sort of struggling to relate to these days.”
“That simple insight eventually led Ruen to this book, which makes a compelling case for a revived debate that moves past old arguments about Metallica and RIAA lawsuits. Unlike some leading pro-IP writers, Ruen takes a moderate, pragmatic approach, favoring shorter copyright terms, and acknowledging the many flaws of SOPA.”
“According to Mr. Ruen, their mission was somewhat irrational and over-defensive, based upon the idea that any regulation of the Internet is an attack on the web and its “freedom”, so any proposed regulation of the online world would be undesirable.”
“Ruen comes to this subject matter as a fan of indie rock who downloaded lots of music from file-sharing sites, then came to see the effect of illegal file-sharing on the livelihoods of his favorite artists and saw the error of his ways.”
“There needs to be a large, coordinated effort by bands big and small to tell their story–to sign a letter to fans explaining how devastating piracy is to their ability to make music for a living (or at all). “The voice of that community is clearly the most important,” says Chris Ruen, author of the recent book, Freeloading: How Our Insatiable Hunger for Free Content Starves Creativity. ‘Artists need to raise their voices.’”
The “Decade of Dysfunction” culminates, for Ruen, at SOPA. He writes, “Years of haphazard debates, misunderstanding of the issues and demonization of rights holders had left a population of Internet users who were vulnerable to propaganda from a technology industry that was (in the form of search engines and social media) facilitating what felt like their lives.”
“SOPA Mythbusting,” one might call it.
“Music and Copyright in the Digital Era: David Byrne in conversation with Chris Ruen is the title of tonight’s hour-long, moderated talk; an event that brings Ruen back to the room where he spent much time writing Freeloading, his first book, over the past couple of years.”
“You may think that internet piracy is so 90s, but Greenpoint author Chris Ruen’s new book Freeloading: How Our Insatiable Hunger For Free Content Starves Creativity makes you think twice before you steal music online. I said it – stealing. As such, the book is a great conversation (and argument) starter, as it aims to establish the relationship between consumers and artists in an age of internet disconnect.”
“On Wednesday, music lovers can expect an earful when the former Talking Head converses with Chris Ruen, a journalist and the author of Freeloading: How Our Insatiable Hunger for Free Content Starves Creativity.”
“The digital revolution has brought about a great many things. However, the obvious exploitation of artists — in knowing denial of their basic rights — remaining at such an industrial scale in 2012 is an embarrassment to that revolution.”
On October 20th I read the near-entirety of Freeloading from 10 AM to 8PM at WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint. Guest readers included members of Talk Normal and Crystal Stilts, along with Todd Patrick, Frankie Rose, and luminaries from the NYC experimental theater scene.
A great discussion, with diverse perspectives on the challenges facing today’s musicians and how they can get paid.
“Chris Ruen’s Freeloading — out soon on O/R Books — is a smart look at digital distribution and culture. What makes Ruen’s approach particularly interesting is his willingness to engage with questions of morality, and his willingness to examine where current trends might lead.”
“Brooklyn’s Chris Ruen is one of the most compelling and forward thinking critics of our current download culture, or FreeLoading as he calls it…”
Two discussion segments on SOPA and Megaupload begin about two hours in. Interview occurred one week after the SOPA blackout.
Trying to place the 2012 blackout within a proper context.
freeloadingthebook.wordpress.com. January 18, 2012.
How music freeloading has increased reliance on corporate sponsorship.
The Big Money (Slate). June 6, 2010. (Original page on Big Money is deceased)
Toward a common ethic on piracy. The piece that started it all.
Tiny Mix Tapes. June 2009.
Revisiting ‘The Myth of DIY’ and the tragic logic of FreeLoading.
Tiny Mix Tapes. December 2009.
With file sharing eating their lunch and no new revenue model in sight, artists are exploring new – and old – ways to get paid.
Chicago Reader. January 2010.
Popmatters. July 2009.
One reader’s meditation on Freeloading and addiction
“I suspect it’s way too late, but it’s reassuring to finally see some serious questions being asked by non-corporate music people about file-sharing.”