FACT laments the disappearance of the controversial online music torrent site What.CD.
Last week, French authorities shut down one of the world’s most famous illegal online music archives, What.CD. The invite-only forum ran for nine years and allowed members to download old and new music in many different formats, and in doing so produced perhaps the most comprehensive online library or archive of recorded music. So naturally, some were relieved and others were devastated when the pirating site suddenly went offline.
FACT’s Christ Zaldua is among those who were distraught—but not for the reasons you might think. He argues that labeling What.CD’s community members as “pirates” or “freeloaders” or “criminals” fails to recognize that the community was trusting, generous, informative, ambitious to build something of permanence outside of capitalism and beyond what any lone individual can achieve. In an era where streaming services are becoming increasingly problematic for artist and consumers alike, where will our next history of musical creativity come from?