John “Cougar” Mellencamp on the prowl against piracy

The singer demands that Google stop linking to any site that offers illegal music downloads, regardless of the logistics or legal issues.


Kevin Collier


Published Oct 26, 2012   Updated Jun 2, 2021, 8:37 am CDT

John Mellencamp has a request for our country’s lawmakers: Stand tall, and make it illegal for search engines like Google to link to sites that pirate content.

In passionate op-ed in the Huffington Post Thursday, Mellencamp sang the authority song, arguing that he’s angrier now more than ever about people pirating his music. “Your search engine leads you to an illegal downloading site where you can download—you name the artist—their entire catalog,” he wrote.

Moreover, he said, websites that host music get a leg up on artists because they make money on advertisements. Piracy is so rampant, fixing it now with drastic steps is the last chance the music industry has to survive: we’re “witnessing the demise of the entertainment business as it has existed since the beginning of recorded sound and moving pictures,” he wrote.

A common theme Mellencamp uses is equivocating the rough harvest of piracy with stealing directly from an artist and claims that such theft is being disguised as a new business model. “Calling it progress, ol’ Hoss, don’t make it right,” he wrote.

Most Internet activists would take issue with his approach, however, because stealing a physical object and making an electronic copy are different things, legally speaking. Mellencamp’s argument especially comes crumbling down in light of the several studies that show pirates actually spend more on music downloads than people who don’t illegally download.

“We need to write a new law that should declare” Mellencamp wrote, “that if you own and operate a search engine, you cannot allow criminal activity to take place in your virtual town.”

However, Mellencamp doesn’t offer any particulars as to how a search site like Google might police its small town—or massive Internet metropolis, as the case may be. Would it be expected to manually check every website it indexes to make sure it doesn’t link to copyrighted material? And would smaller sites, without Google’s massive budget and manpower, also have to check every page they link to for possible violations?

While that would undoubtedly make an immediate dent in piracy, it likely wouldn’t drive additional revenue to artists like Mellencamp. The pro-copyright lobby has a history of opposing technology until it realizes it’s actually a great moneymaker.

Jack & Diane.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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*First Published: Oct 26, 2012, 8:20 pm CDT