“Sure, my little carpet-crawler of a granddaughter. Lessee… It was 2002, and the recording industry was having a dickens of a time stopping all the song-swapping.”

“You mean, all those people who would fire up Napster and then trade songs by major label recording artists, like Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan and KORN?”

“Oh, yes. Napster. Gosh, my unruly little yard ape, I haven’t heard that name in ages. No, by 2002, Napster was all but dead and buried. But there were other file-trading systems, with big scary names like Kazaa, Morpheus and BearShare.”

“Oh, my.”

“Yes, it was anarchy. As soon as the record companies shut down one trader, three others would pop up to take its place. The world wasn’t safe for recording artists. People were trading songs by Elton John and Slayer like there was no tomorrow. The tried and true economic business model that was the recording industry was facing extinction.”

“That’s terrible, Grandpa. What happened next?”

“Well, my little nose miner, that’s when the music industry, along with the motion picture industry, joined forces and pushed legislation through Congress that would outlaw the manufacturing of any digital device that would facilitate the copying and distribution of any copyrighted work, such as the latest song by Bela Fleck & The Flecktones or the new Joshua Redman CD.”

“Wow, Grandpa, people were trading entire CDs?”

“There were rumors, but most people just traded one or two songs.”

“Oh, that’s right. The good ones.”

“You got it, my little linoleum lizard. It wasn’t looking good for the rightful holders of intellectual property. Sales were down, and people were swapping songs by Neil Diamond and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers like crazy.”

“But didn’t forcing all those computer manufacturers to build copyright-safe systems put an end to all the file-sharing?”

“One would think so, my little loin monkey, but as soon as a new copyright-friendly device made it to market, someone would figure out how to beat it. Plus, people had plenty of older computers that weren’t copyright-compliant. The trading of songs by Oasis, Kenny Garrett and John Mayer continued.”

“That’s terrible, Grandpa! Then what happened?”

“That brings us up to 2005, when President Hilary Rosen decided that it wasn’t enough to tame the outlaws of Silicon Valley. That’s when she signed an executive order commanding her attorney general, Lars Ulrich, to lock up everyone caught file-sharing, no matter if they were trading the entire Eagles catalogue, or just a couple of Vanilla Ice tunes, and sentence them to a mandatory five year stretch in a federal penitentiary.”

“Five years? Why five years, Grandpa?”

“Because she knew the Supreme Court wouldn’t go for ten, my little person-in-training. Plus, because an entire generation had come to believe that music, like the latest hits by Linda Ronstadt and Alice Cooper, was free for the taking, President Rosen included a sub-clause in her executive order instructing that all the children of convicted file-traders be locked up as well.”

“And that’s how the recording industry triumphed over the evil song-traders?”

“That’s right, my little pediatric abomination. The status quo was saved.”

“Yippee! That’s a good story, Grandpa. Tell me another, will you? Tell me another story, please?”

“I’d love to, my little demon spawn, but visiting hours are over and here comes the guard.”

“Oh, Grandpa, I love theses little visits.”

“So do I, my little disease vector, so do I. Now, don’t forget to say ‘hi’ to your mother for me when you get back to your cell.”