I have been rereading the legislative history of the 1909 Copyright Act. I have come to the conclusion that 100 years ago we were smarter about copyright, about disruptive technologies, about intellectual property, monopolies and network effects than we are today. At least, the legislative hearings were much smarter. The hearings I am looking at took place in 1906 — thanks to the wonder of Google books you can read them yourself, if you are really nerdy.
There are lots of delights here. There is John Philip Sousa (yes, the one who wrote the march that forms the Monty Python theme music) popping up again and again to make his point.. So far as I can tell, he had a wild card from the chair to interrupt whenever it suited him.. viz.
The thing that Sousa (and some other American composers) and the music publishers were most upset about was the fact that copyright covered printing and public performance, but did not cover the mechanical reproduction involved in cutting a roll for a player piano or recording a disk or a cylinder for a phonograph or gramophone. Their goal was to get a new provision (section g) which would give composers (and thus publishers) the right to charge a royalty for these sound recordings. In strong opposition was the recording industry — which violently denied that the copyright holders should gain any share of the new market that (as they saw it) had been created out of thin air by technological innovation. To give copyright holders a veto over technology, they argued, would be fatal to the progress the Copyright Clause was designed to promote. As Larry Lessig points out in Free Culture (which has a superb chapter on this story) there is no small irony involved here, since this is the opposite position that the recording industry takes today (having secured their legal rights) when they face the new technologies of the Net. What's more, the representatives of the recording and player piano industry believed that there was no harm being done to the composers by the mechanical reproduction of their music.
(statement of Albert Walker, representative of the Auto-Music Perforating Company of New York)