Napster's shutdown

By Scott Rosenberg


Salon Staff
July 28, 2000 11:26PM (UTC)

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Scott Rosenberg has hit the nail on the head. The RIAA is only paying for years of price gouging and mistreating its artists. I am looking forward to the day when I can pay an artist a reasonable fee to download a song or an album and my money goes to only the artist and not some fat cat record executive.

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The only way to keep file-sharing technology from moving forward is to force us all to return to using 486 computers with 14.4kbps modems.

-- Amita Guha

How almost an entire industry cannot see that 20 million customers want an alternative is beyond me. I see a change-or-die scramble ensuing. How does that saying go? "Necessity is the mother of invention." You better believe it, RIAA!

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-- David Nine

Scott Rosenberg says that "the anti-Napster campaign is as dead as Prohibition." What he overlooks is that it's much easier, not more difficult, to prevent copyright piracy over the Internet than it is to prevent the import of banned substances.

Rosenberg is certainly right that the end of Napster the company is not the end of Napster the phenomenon. Iterative and scalable peer-to-peer systems such as Freenet and Gnutella are as good or better than Napster at distributing information and lack a company that can be sued or a central server that can be shut down. They are, in that sense, lawsuit proof.

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But lawyers and courts have a habit of creating effective remedies when legal rights are violated. One cheap and readily available remedy is a program that would 1) put up files falsely labeled as popular music on such a system and 2) occupy the download bandwidth of those sites providing authentic copies. There is no particularly good reason to think that some court at some time won't authorize such a remedy. Copyright protection has a long history of self-help. Whether such a remedy is a good idea, of course, remains an open question

-- Andrew St. Laurent

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Scott Rosenberg made a small factual error in his very apposite article. The CD format does indeed have a copy prevention mechanism, which hardware manufacturers chose to ignore. Why wasn't it implemented? In those days the entertainment corporations owned both the rights and the means of dissemination so they profited on both legitimate and illegitimate use of music. The CD format is owned by Sony and Philips, the compact cassette by Philips, and the links between consumer audio electronics companies and rights owners are numerous.

Thomson has failed so far to control the use of its extensive rights in MP3 technology, despite claiming an entitlement to minimum one cent per download or one percent of all revenue, and the recorded music industry has failed to establish a popular controllable distribution method.

Now Judge Patel has ordered Napster to do what the plaintiffs have so far failed to do -- reliably identify copyrighted music on the Internet. If Napster fails then Scott Rosenberg's scenario could well give the recorded music industry a more intractable problem. If it succeeds, it would indeed have the killer app for online music!

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-- Paul Sanders


Salon Staff

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