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Comparing the Final Days of England’s Wool Industry with the RIAA

March 8th, 2008 · 1 Comment

I have been studying globalization recently and I am finishing up, “Travels of a T Shirt in the Global Economy” by Pietra Rivoli. Travels of a T shirt traces a t shirt from the cotton fields of Texas through a myriad of legislative quota mucking to other countries and back to the racks of clothing stores in the US. A large section of the book is dedicated to the legal maneuvering of the “alphabet army” who lobby congress, other acronyms and the president to legislate the US cotton industry which is reminiscent of the RIAA and the MPAA today. An even better example requires that we step further back in time to jolly England. Well the scene wasn’t quite so jolly for those living in 17th century England as they trudged through damp days wearing woolen clothing head to toe.

In the mid 1600’s cheap cotton fabrics from India began to roll into the ports throughout England. The cotton products had many great features including, “It was cheap, it was light and it was washable. It came in a variety of bright colors and prints, and it was soft instead of itchy.” (Rivoli 153). If we compare DRM free music to music label restricted goods we find many similar features. DRM free music is cheap, easy to use on any device(light) and can be mixed or cut to suit the purchasers needs (washable…a stretch for this link ;-) ). The current state of the music industry also allows for more variance in types due to the internet, and if anyone out there sees DRM as soft rather than itchy and uncomfortable I question your sanity.

The interest of the wool weavers soon made it to Parliament with tales of labels closing and musicians starving mill closing and starving weavers. These parties also utilized the newspapers of the time to sensationalize several deaths which occurred when individuals happened to be wearing cotton underwear. With proclamations that this new underwear was dangerous a bill was passed which restricted the use of cotton to summer months. This was only the beginning of regulations placed upon the constituencies of England.

In 1689 in a move which seems to have inspired the RIAA and MPAA, the woolen interest groups pressured the government to require that,

all magistrates, judges, students of the Universities and all professors of the common and civil law….[must] wear gowns ma