Letters to the editor

The Napster wars continue Plus: Can vegetarians and meat eaters get along? Do you really want to live forever?

By Salon Staff
Published April 3, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

Napster -- friend or foe?

Kudos to Scott Rosenberg for stating the obvious: A market is driven by its customers. As more and more people desire free MP3s, both the artists and the industry will simply have to adapt or perish. Whether they choose to do so graciously or to go kicking and screaming, that doesn't affect the reality of their changing market.

-- Gabriel Golden

Like any technology, Napster can be used or abused. To artists who fear Napster as an evil force, I'd like to offer a little story. The day I installed Napster I went in search of something by Guided by Voices. They were scheduled to play Tokyo, I'd never heard them, and was curious what they sounded like. I downloaded "Teenage FBI," flipped, and went out and bought the album it appears on the same day. In the next week I saw GBV live and now have five albums by that band.

-- Dave Biasotti

Yokohama, Japan

I woke up from a terrible dream in the middle of the night. In this dream, the recording industry had failed and we were left with only Napster to guide us. The trouble was, with 80,000 garage-and-dorm bands listed, I had no way to sort through the garbage to find the occasional gem.

The music industry, problematic and imperfect as it is, might be likened to a consultant who helps you find the information (music suited to your tastes) you need. Napster, on the other hand, is more like a search engine which spits up thousands of irrelevant links at each turn.

-- Mike Martin

Even if your hoped-for "easy-to-use micropayments scheme" becomes a reality, who will use it when people can get the music for free instead?

-- Jon Lackman

The piracy of digital content is a technological problem, and it has technological solutions. Big record companies realize this, and they are working with Digital Rights Management (DRM) companies to develop technology that allows them to control the distribution (and superdistibution) of their music while minimizing the risk of piracy.

The future brought to us by Napster is therefore this: the major labels will have digitally protected content. The majors will make their profits. On the other hand, independents will be increasingly unable to make money by digital distribution, and many will withdraw, leaving all of us the poorer.

It is precisely the independent artists who most need to be paid for their work. These are the people who are really threatened by Napster. And if, in protecting the small guys, we allow the majors to make a profit, so what?

-- Knox Carey

No one (including the RIAA) is condemning the inevitable barrage of new, industry-altering technologies, but rather they are seeking to protect existing copyright laws. Rosenberg's opinion seems to be that everyone should just dumbly follow each new technological step, rather than question the legality and consequence of the product.

Piracy undermines all facets of recorded music -- from garage band to superstar -- and just because someone has dreamed up a business that runs off of copies of music (legal or illegal) doesn't mean we all should happily jump on board, without first wondering if the creators are at all accountable for the laws being broken with use of their service.

This is music, not water. It is a product and people are not automatically entitled to it. It's now a product that's being stolen easily and rampantly. This is OK? I, for one, am against a system that lets people break laws and guarantees them anonymity to do so with out consequence.

-- Brenden Cobb

Recording music costs money. Say Napster does eliminate the need for record companies -- both corporate and independent. How will artists fund the recording of their work if they don't have CDs to sell and infrastructure to support them? Any touring band knows it's impossible to make money just from playing shows alone.

Napster is a corporation, just like the major labels, that's hoping to make a lot of money when they go public. How is that money made? On the backs of artists, of course. And how much does Napster compensate them for being the reason why their IPO is bound to be tremendous? Not at all.

If Napster was shareware put together and maintained by dedicated music fans at no profit to themselves I would be more supportive. This is all money made from what's essentially bootlegging. How is that really bucking the system of abuse?

-- Jeff Barrus

Napster should simply agree to charge an industry scale for songs to be downloaded. Don't want to pay $17 for a CD of crappy music? Fine. Go on Napster, download the song you like and pay a couple bucks for it. Why is that wrong?

-- Tom Slater


Really, I don't hug trees

Where on earth does Molly A. Scoles live? Even here in the heart of the deep South, vegan-persecution has gone out of style. While I admit that Chapel Hill is something of an anomaly in North Carolina, even my carnivorous friends from unreconstructed, pork-centric Raleigh have long since abandoned any tendencies to tease, much less mock, people who choose to eat things that they find weird and scary.

What people do find offensive, however, is folks who use their lifestyle choices to belittle others who don't share their views. Scoles claims that she doesn't do that. Oh, really? She refers to "snide" carnivores and mocks the ignorance of people who think that "only eating chicken" makes you a vegetarian. She asserts that people who don't share her values are morally bankrupt slaves of their appetites ("People put their gut feelings and moral convictions aside when it comes to eating.")

Scoles could stand to learn a few things from St. Francis of Assisi, who shared her aversion toward the exploitation of animals. Courtesy and humility can turn thieves and murderers into saints. Condescension and moral preening merely turn hearts of flesh into hearts of stone.

-- Lisa Rathert

I've simply lost my facility for outrage. I'm just stunned at the imbecility of militant adherents to the cause.
People give us poetry, art, children. Chickens give us feathers, meat and eggs.

If the writer really wanted to feel better about herself, perhaps she should visit her capacity for good works onto someone that can thank her.

-- Patrick McMahon

I understand and agree with Scoles' position on factory farming. Coming from a long line of small farmers, I find contemporary corporate megafarm treatment of agriculture deplorable. I don't believe, however, that veganism will change factory farming one iota. We are an omnivorous species; it is highly unlikely that veganism will become a cultural norm. My family and I have chosen a different approach. We eat far fewer animal products, and purchase only those (much more expensive) products that have been humanely and organically farmed. We prefer to purchase from local farmers when we can, but purchase from local health food stores when the products are otherwise unavailable. We also raise a few of our own chickens for eggs and meat, hunt and fish occasionally and regularly enjoy all types of seafood.

This more moderate approach has been highly effective in raising others' awareness. We've found many of our friends have started to purchase and eat only animal products from organically raised and humanely treated animals.

How many of Scoles' associates have become vegan?

-- Rita Vasak

I am totally empathetic to Scoles' mealtime interrogation frustration. I have been a vegetarian my entire life (all 25 years). I have grown extremely tired of having to defend (not explain, defend, meat eaters questioning in a suspicious, condescending tone) my choice. To me, eating meat is akin to chewing a sneaker, and then I get a stomachache. Not fun. My entire family is vegetarian, yes, even my brother and father (people find it hard to believe men can abstain from meat for some reason). Over the years I've developed a respect for my diet, and mass-animal farming is surely one of the reasons. I don't question people about why they eat meat, and I would like the same courtesy in return.

-- A.C. Sims

On immortality

Thank you, Susan, for your article about perhaps one of the most important issues of our lifetimes. You addressed many aspects, sometimes poetically, many I'm still mulling.

To those who want to live forever, I say "get over it." Nothing lasts forever. This is a hard but simple truth, and life actually becomes easier when you accept it. I console myself by remembering that I am part of a living being that stretches thousands of generations, a being not only of flesh and blood, but memory, carried in DNA, hormones, lore, literature, history, etc. That's immortality.

-- Mark Ventola

My motto is "I intend to live to be at least 10,000 years old or die trying." It is the nature of exponential processes that will make the first option possible and desirable. There are more scientists alive today than in the sum of all history. There will be more change in technology in the next 50 years than since the dawn of fire. Many will doubt and worry and be angry over the problems that will arise, but a few will go beyond and fix the problems. The most important ethical question is how do we hasten the obsolescence of death. Lives are at stake, people are going to die! We need action!

-- Robert Sperry

We are family


Impressive pedigree, but I thought we were considering him for president, not breeding purposes. He might win "Best in Show" at the Westminster Kennel Club, but can he retrieve ducks?

-- Ken Pinkham

Salon Staff

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