The famed American composer colorfully mocks the idea of ascribing altruistic motives to the music pirate:
Sir, â€” With an avidity worthy the cause, I have read during my sojourn in these tight little islands everything that has come my way which has borne on the subject of music piracy.
Because of the laxity of your laws, and because of the perseverance of your music pirates, my royalties have gone a-glimmering. To use an anatomical expression current in my own country, I have been “getting it plump in the jugular.”
One or two of the arguments I have noted, which were in opposition to the publisher and composer, have not struck me as hilariously humorous, or even as faintly facetious.
To elucidate â€” I read in your journal some days ago, a communication in which the writer places the blame for the deplorable condition of the music trade here on the publisher, and points with argumentative finger to the fact that if the publisher had heeded the cry of the masses â€” whoever that nebulous body may be â€” and had sold his wares for less money, the music pirate would never have budded into existence. Inter alia, it would appear that the music pirate was called into the arena of activity to fill a long-felt want â€” to supply music at a cheaper price than the one at which the publisher cared to sell it â€” whether he could afford to or not.
It would appear under those conditions that the music pirate had a philanthropic mission. This mysterious and mercenary Messiah, noticing the’ dire distress of the tune-starved masses â€” whoever they may be â€” said, “I will save them. I will fill their melodic ‘little Marys’ with music at 2d. a meal. I will gorge them with gavottes, build them up with ballads, and make muscle with marches. They shall become comely with comedy conceits, and radiantly rosy with ragtime rondos â€” and all at 2d. a throw.”
And this beneficent pirate has waxed fat and saucy as he has hawked in the highways and byways spurious editions of him who is the favored of Melpomene and the boon companion of Orpheus. And I beg to ask, in words tinged with doubt and despair, where does the favored of Melpomene and the boon companion of Orpheus come in? The royalties of the “f. of M.,” and the “b.c. of O.” are like angels’ visits â€” few and far between.
Shall the sunlight depart from the soul of the sweet singer of melody? Shall the fount of the muse dry up, as it were? Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no surcease from sorrow for royalties that never materialize? Behold, O star-eyed Britannia, a suppliant at the bar of public opinion asking for justice, for your own and for your friends’ own.