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Techno, Frankenstein and copyright


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.

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Popular Music
  • ISSN: 0261-1430
  • EISSN: 1474-0095
  • URL: /core/journals/popular-music
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