The great MP3 love fest

By Eric Boehlert

By Salon Staff
Published August 3, 2000 7:34PM (EDT)

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Nice to read a piece that calls a spade a spade and piracy "piracy" instead of letting it go by as something that it is not.

I don't buy the argument that Napster encourages album sales in the slightest. The only folks who purchased albums last year were people bound by conscience or a lack of the proper equipment to play MP3s with decent enough quality to be satisfied.

It is human nature to take something for nothing if possible. Napster is not only free of charge but also free of consequence for users. I don't know a single person who would buy an album instead of downloading it for free if they had the equipment to suck it down and burn it to a disc. In our society, you'd be considered stupid if you did the right thing and bought the album instead of stealing it from the Web.

Don't get me wrong -- I certainly used Napster. I downloaded more than 2200 songs in the last year alone, enough to make me think MP3s were something cooked up by Maxtor & Western Digital to sell more drives. I watch free cable at my apartment because the cable company hasn't shut it off from the last tenant. But I've been smart enough to see the party isn't going to last forever. Glad to see someone cut through the hype.

-- Drew Grgich

I agree with Eric Boehlert that the Napster phenomenon is being spun by the press into a simplistic story where the underdog is always right. However, I feel that there is one aspect of Napster's case that is being given short shrift that, in my opinion, is what is truly at the heart of the matter.

The problem in my mind is this: Is it right to sue a company that provides links to illegal copyrighted music? After all, it isn't Napster that is providing the illegal songs, it is their end users. I feel that Napster is a model of distributing information, providing a central repository for MP3 files. Should they be held responsible for the content of their links? The fact is, the World Wide Web is, at heart, just a large warehouse of information that is hyperlinked together. If I can get to an illegal site from Altavista, is that their fault? Should they be sued? I think the RIAA is taking the easy way out and trying to find a scapegoat for this wholesale copyright violation. They should really be suing the individual users, for it is those people who are truly responsible for this.

-- Shreyas Ravishankar

Thank you for this article. Having worked at a major record company for seven years, I know what it's like on the inside of the "ivory tower," and it never ceases to infuriate me how inaccurately "big, bad, greedy" labels and their "corporate loving, suit wearing, limo riding gatekeepers" are portrayed by the press and other media (TV shows, films, etc.)and thus to the record buying public. I had to send an angry letter to NPR recently about a story some journalist (from Business Week no less) filed in which he perpetuated the canard that labels rip off consumers by selling CDs for $16 when it only takes $1 to manufacture them. Stuff like that makes me crazy!

Glad to see the glaring light focused back on the finger pointers for once. Good work and thanks again.

-- Susanne Savage

I'd be awfully surprised if Eric Boehlert wasn't found to be on the RIAA's payroll. The media coverage I've seen lately is anything but biased toward Napster. Meanwhile, EVERYONE is ignoring the independent artist and their newfound distribution channel -- which is really what the RIAA is trying to kill with their numerous lawsuits against MP3-related companies and extensive investment in big new-media names.

If MP3 continues unchecked (over the RIAA's dead body), the Web will surely create its first independent star within the next 24 months, with a completely different modus operandi than the RIAA presently forces upon the consumer and artist -- and at that point, "the genie" will REALLY be out of the bottle. This possibility is going completely undiscussed in the mass media, and Boehlert's "eye-opener" is certainly no exception.

Whether or not Boehlert is trying to play devil's advocate, he shows the same crass ignorance of artistic issues as his journalist peers. It's the majors' ballgame right now, and MP3 can change that. Tripe like this is simply helping the RIAA keep the game on their home turf.

-- Rob Bennett

Salon Staff

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