Napster: Hanging by a thread

Readers respond to our story about the federal appeals court ruling against the file-trading service.

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I have been rerecording music off vinyl, cassettes and even eight tracks since my little fingers were strong enough to push the red REC button 30 years ago. So now we’re in the digital age and the recording industry is calling this illegal? I buy what I want and record what I want — always have, always will. This afternoon, I deleted Napster off of my start-up menu and added Audiogalaxy and OpenNap. I am sent free downloads in e-mails every day from ZDNET/music, CNet/music, MP3.com and others. This court injunction means nothing to me. Like one legal scholar observed, this will go down as one of the stupidest business moves in history.

– Mark Barbee

Today is a dark day for the recording industry, only it doesn’t know it yet. Consumers are more savvy than they were before Napster. They realize that they can copy a CD for less than 50 cents once their initial equipment is purchased, and that no commercial album can justifiably cost them $15.99 retail. They realize that one person can buy the album, harvest the decent tracks off of it and give it to his friends without trouble or noticeable cost, other than time.

I, for one, am finished with being forced to buy a package when all I want is a song. The recording industry had better wake up because consumers already have. It’s only a matter of time before something even more sophisticated comes along to blow them all out of the water. They may have won the battle, but I think the war is far from over.

– Nathan P. Isenhardt

This whole thing is such a joke, but not for the reasons that everyone complains about. Have any of these people who are complaining about Napster actually downloaded an MP3 from Napster? I have, and none of the files were of CD quality. None. Which makes sense, because, in order to have them in an easily downloadable size, you have to cut the bit rate at encoding. So you end up with mediocre-sounding music that only makes you want to buy the CD. I heard an interview of a record company CEO and he said he only listens to MP3s at home now. And I thought, “What bullshit.” With all the incredible audio equipment at his disposal and all the free music he can get his hands on, he has a desktop computer in his living room or something playing MP3s?

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My experience has led me to believe that what drives Napster’s popularity is either the tease of poorly recorded music or that people nowadays have absolutely no standards in what they are willing to listen to.

– Dave Damianakes

I was standing in the library this weekend at the card catalog computer when I happened to glance up to the stacks of music CDs. All of these, of course, are available for anyone to take home for free. In the wake of the recent news about Napster, I have to wonder: How is the public library any different from Napster? Is there a difference between doing the copying online vs. going to the library and taking CDs home to copy? Is the technology the question? Is there a difference between burning a CD and making a tape? Perhaps the difference is that now, with the falling cost of writable CDs, it’s evident just how much the music industry has been making with each CD sale.

– John Treml

Does Napster make copyright violations easy? Yes. Are copyrighted works being swapped? Definitely. So the court decision is no surprise.

But if the RIAA forces Napster to shut down, it’s wasting a huge opportunity to make money. Why not simply invent some technology to track who swaps what on Napster, then combine it with a subscription model? Out of a $10-a-month subscription, $1 could go to Napster, $2 or $3 to the record companies and the rest to the artists. Napster is currently estimated to have 50 million users. It may take a few years to get that many paying subscribers, but recording companies and artists don’t have to spend a cent to earn it; they don’t have to pay for pressing CDs, shipping them to stores or the other costs associated with physical copies of recorded music.

Now that it has all but won its day in court, the RIAA should start negotiating quick, before it drives users to competing technologies that can’t be shut down so easily.

– Chris Owen

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