The San Francisco Bay Guardian reports that the SFPD has begun routinely seizing DJs laptops at house parties. Like the ACTA treaty our federal government is currently pursuing, it's representative of a disturbing new trend in law enforcement -- one in which our digital civil liberties, or "e-speech," are not accorded the same protections that they would be in our physical lives or traditional communications media.
However, there's also something very familiar about this story. As I discuss in my forthcoming book, Mashed Up, musical practices and technologies have always been subjected to government regulation, often at gunpoint, from ancient times to the present. This is because music acts as a kind of social and psychological blueprint, and new musical ideas nearly always carry with them new social ideas, which threaten established institutions.
In the case of DJ- and laptop-based music, the new musical ideas are sufficiently threatening to destabilize all of today's modern institutions -- in the government, the marketplace, and even houses of worship. No small wonder, then, that the police would begin to confiscate and criminalize these devices.
Of course, the flip side of regulation is resistance. Even history's most dispossessed peoples (e.g. slaves in the antebellum South) have responded to musical subjugation with innovative and canny countermeasures. I'm kind of looking forward to seeing how the SF DJ scene starts to hide its contraband...