Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
Given that Digby Pearson, owner of metal label Earache Records, once considered signing noted black-metal musician, murder enthusiast, and racist Varg Vikernes, aka Burzum, I doubt his motivation for maliciously leaking the new Burzum record via his Twitter is entirely pure. But even if he only leaked Belus because he thinks it's "garbage" and Vikernes is a "racist dickhead," his act raises some interesting questions.
The ethics of file sharing are usually debated from one of two positions: that the practice is an ultimately productive way to promote music or that it's basically theft. But there are obviously other moral factors that can work into it. Is leaking an avowed racist's album, and thereby denying them some of the money they might earn from it, a good thing? Belus isn't a propaganda tool, and it doesn't seem to have explicitly racist lyrics, so spreading it around probably won't inadvertently create any more racists among the people downloading it. Like the saying goes, direct action gets things done. Given that Vikernes hasn't budged from his ideological stance despite his vilification by large factions within the metal scene, could hitting him in the wallet have an effect? If deliberate leaks could somehow bankrupt Vikernes and by that process shut up a well-known and frequently quoted hatemonger, I'd count that as a victory, but I'm always suspicious of vigilante justice. It has a way of getting out of control with surprising speed.
I'm sure I'll be thinking this over for a while before I settle on any answers. But even though Pearson's leak was almost purely symbolic—I don't imagine it'll effect Vikernes in any substantial way—I'm glad he did it.