FREELOADING: A Book on the History of Music Piracy and Digital Copyright

"A wonderful book that catches an encouraging shift in the zeitgeist."  — David Byrne


FREELOADING explores the various implications of digital piracy and argues against its insidious devaluation of creative work.

Written by Chris Ruen, the book features candid musician interviews (with members of TV On The Radio, The Hold Steady, Yeasayer and others), critiques of "freeloaders," a close look at the SOPA blackout protests, midwestern hockey riots, and more!

Since its original publication, FREELOADING has helped fans, journalists and artists around the world to understand what side they are on amidst the ongoing tension between digital disruption and ensuring the rights of artists—canaries in the coal mine for now common data breaches and social media accountability scandals. Love t or loathe it, the book is sure to provoke a few new thoughts on our shared digital future.

Available in the US, UK, Spain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Latin America.


“A wonderful book that catches an encouraging shift in the zeitgeist. Ruen’s epiphany regarding the effects of his own piracy and freeloading on the bands he loves was eye opening–for me, at least. Although he mainly deals with music, the arguments he presents will apply to print and other media equally. I’ve recommended this book to a number of friends, some of whom may have felt this discussion was over…it’s not. After a couple of decades of waffling, it’s really just begun.”  

David Byrne

“The original slacker’s dream of free everything may have been realized by the Internet—but along with it came the slacker’s nightmare of never getting paid for one’s creativity. Freeloading seeks—and to a large extent succeeds—to wrestle with the collapse of the commons and the possibilities for a renewed social contract.”

Douglas Rushkoff

“Too often, arguments about copyright online come down to talking points: Theft, Internet freedom, or rhetoric about major label evils. With a critic’s eye and a music fan’s passion, Ruen shows how piracy affects artists and lays bare the corporate agendas on both sides of the debate. An essential read for anyone worried about how artists will survive in the online age.”

Robert Levine

“One of the best books on the subject.”    Salon

“A deeply moral and passionate book.”    Sydney Sunday Herald

“Fascinating.”    The Village Voice

“Taking a rare and refreshingly unbiased look at the phenomenon of internet piracy, [Freeloading] is that rarest of discursive entities; a call for more conversation, both balanced and passionate.”    InPress Magazine, Australia

“Highly recommended.”    Copyhype

“Chris Ruen is one of the most compelling and forward thinking critics of our current download culture.”    M3 Music Conference



O/R Books in the US and Canada

Scribe Publications in Australia and New Zealand

Scribe UK  in United Kingdom

Ediciones Quinto 20 in Spain and Latin America

Available at WORD, Rough Trade, Record Grouch and Greenlight in Brooklyn and at the great STRAND in Manhattan. 


Good Reads

Tiny Mix Tapes


MAGNET: Book Review

Future of Music Coalition: Best Music Books of 2012



Content Creators Coalition Comes to APAP With a Plea for Fair Compensation

Q with Jian Ghomeshi: Is Our Addiction to Free Content Killing Creativity?

The New York Times: Musicians Sing for a Cause That’s Their Own

Newsweek: Putting a Price on Radio Play

Billboard: David Byrne, Marc Ribot, Chris Ruen Lead Rally For Radio to Pay Performance Royalties

Salon: Silicon Valley Must be Stopped, or Creativity will be Destroyed

VICE/Motherboard: Chris Ruen Is Taking the Anti-Piracy Argument Back from the Music Industry

The Village Voice: Tonight David Byrne and Author Chris Ruen Explain Exactly, Specifically, and Definitively Why Illegally Downloading Music Makes You A Huge Asshole

Vol.1 Brooklyn: Talking Music, Freeloading, and “Cultural Self-Destruction” with Chris Ruen

The American Conservative: Piracy and the Losers’ History of Rock and Roll

JUNKEE: The Case Against Free

Greenpointers: A Chat With Greenpoint Author Chris Ruen

M3 Music Conference: Interview


Australian Financial Review: Why Information Shouldn’t Be Free

Copyhype: The Net Fail parts 1 and 2 (SOPA Mythbusting)

The Melbourne Review

Arts Hub Australia: Don’t Call It Piracy


The New Republic: Digital Piracy is Ruining Pop Culture

Seattle Weekly: The Misplaced Zeal of Aaron Swartz

Stereogum: Pandora, Spotify, Piracy and Getting Artists Paid

FasterLouder: Are We Loving Our Music To Death?


Tiny Mix Tapes: The Myth of DIY 

Tiny Mix Tapes: Fuck Love, Let’s Make Dystopia

Slate/The Big Money: No Sellouts Means More Selling-Out   (Original page on Big Money is deceased)

NYCRUEN: An Elegy for the Piracy Wars (On the Occasion of the SOPA/PIPA Blackout)


Self-Interview for The Nervous Breakdown