Copyleft Records

Pirate Radio, a retrospective

Posted by Joe at 11:38 am

As a warning, there might be some spoilers in this post, if you haven't seen Pirate Radio yet and don't want anything ruined, don't read this.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -George Santayana

This post doesn't really have anything to do with the record label, I just figured I'd post it as food for thought. The other night I went and saw the movie "Pirate Radio" at my local movie theater. Although the movie was advertised as "based on true events", a quick check on wikipedia showed that the boat and its crew that the movie centered around was fictitious. However, the basis for the movie (boats anchored off the coast of Great Britain broadcasting music) is historically accurate.

The movie focuses on the boat Rock Radio, which is made up of a motley crew of radio DJ's, broadcasting rock 'n' roll 24/7 off the coast of Great Britain. Although it is illegal to make such broadcasts in Britain, technically they are not breaking any laws since they aren't stationed on land. Throughout the movie, the government keeps trying to find ways to shut the radio station down, despite the fact that what they are doing isn't illegal.

Halfway through the film, the British government manages to outlaw pirate radio so that any boat broadcasting rock 'n' roll will have its crew arrested. The captain of the boat informs the crew that their services will no longer be needed. After a short silence, each crew member/DJ stands in turn and announces how they refuse to stop what they are doing, and that their music is more important than their safety. Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character says something to the extent of "I intend to broadcast until the day I die...and then for a few days after that."

As I was watching the movie, I suddenly realized the similarities between what I was seeing onscreen and what was happening currently in the music industry with music piracy and the fall of The Pirate Bay. I'm not sure if the filmmakers meant for me to draw such a conclusion, but after I noticed it, it seemed painfully obvious to me. Like Rock Radio, the owners of The Pirate Bay were not technically doing anything illegal (their service really doesn't do anything more than Google does), but governments all over the world have been trying to bring them down forever. When they were finally arrested and brought down, did they quietly concede to the powers that be? No way! They fought tooth and nail in court. The owners of The Pirate Bay weren't doing it because they wanted to be millionaires or because they wanted to steal from artists. They were doing it because they believed it was right. I know that if I was alive when these events actually occurred, I would definitely have supported the radio pirates, just as I currently support the owners of The Pirate Bay 100% (as a note, this is just a personal statement, I can't speak for all the artists signed onto Copyleft Records).

I might be way off base here, but I just thought that the similarities were amusing. If you have seen the movie or plan to see it, go into the theater with this in mind, and let me know what you think.