Volume 94, Issue 81
Thursday, February 15, 2001
Thge Napster court ruling: Right or wrong? Two editors swap their own tunes on the controversy
I love Napster.
A bold statement, you say? A billion megabyte database filled with every song from any genre of my fancy, at my disposal 24 hours around the clock.
OK, well maybe this is not as ground breaking a declaration as I first thought. However, what I am here to say is that my love for this cuddly little cat with the oversized headphone set comes attached to a moral dilemma: Knowing that the entire premise of the service is blatantly illegal.
It's a musical utopia fueled by the technology of the Internet (which by the way IS on computers now!) For the last four years or so it has gone against the very premise of things that are just too good to be true.
Answering this, again the courts have stepped in after much ballyhoo from the recording industry, to try and do away with this technological pest that seemingly will not go away. Whether they do eventually shut down Napster and all of its compatriots is not the argument I would like to make.
The fact of the matter is, whatever excuse, reason or justification the public gives for why the entity should not be shut down, the system is wrong.
Many ask, what does the music industry care? They've already made their millions off the backs of the market since the beginning of this game. Others will say it's the same thing with blank audio tapes that are able to duplicate and record the same way MP3s have. Why have they survived?
These are correct statements, but it has been a simple case of what the market has bared. It's simple supply and demand. If music was not being sold, prices would come down. $14.99 isn't a magic number industry has drawn out of a hat for CDs, it's what people will pay. So these companies have made millions because we've allowed them.
Before burned CDs became a vital aspect of this generation's music collection, people did make recordings from records, 8-tracks and other tapes. However, even if the duplication were transposed under perfect conditions, they still would fall well short of digital reproductions of today.
Record sales have fallen off every year in relation to the emergence of the file sharing program's popularity. It is no secret that a simple program produced by a teenage kid has brought the recording business to its knees, as they feel their oligopoly slipping away from them.
So even though I know that it is not right that I currently have 467 free songs on my hardrive; even though I'm evil because I haven't bought a CD since I moved into Saugeen my first year; even though I know I'm going to Hell because Madonna, Dr. Dre, The Rolling Stones and Metallica might not be able to afford to eat without my revenues, I still love Napster!
Three hundred thousand Napster users can't be wrong.
That was the number of people thrown off of Napster when drummer Lars Ulrich from the band Metallica stormed into the company's main office with evidence that supported his claim that people were illegally sharing the band's songs on Napster. You'd think that would be the end of it. The band's copyrighted material was once again protected, and the fellons charged to the full extent of the law.
Not even close. Not only were none of the people caught ever brought up on any charges, but they were also able to use the program a week later.
So what then is the lesson we learn from all of this? Well to start, if you do download songs illegally from the Internet, you're probably never going to get caught. The people thrown off of Napster were caught red-handed, guilty as sin, and they were never fined. And that was only 300,000 of what is probably millions of people out there that are just as guilty.
Statistically speaking, being caught and fined is really not an effective deterrent to stop people from continuing to use programs like Napster. So what again was the reason why I shouldn't do it? Oh yes, because of a quality conscience! So I shouldn't trade MP3s over the Internet because some poor deprived musician is losing out on a few more dollars? Cry me a river. Musicians make almost nothing from CD revenues anyway. The majority of that money goes back into the music companies, and to be quite honest I don't have much sympathy for a corporation that would whore off their employees to any company with product with a license agreement.
Am I suggesting then that you stop supporting the musicians you like? Far from it.
I never actually purchased Radiohead's last album, Kid A. Still, I was more then willing to drop $70 to go see them in Toronto in October. Could the same be said of a musician like Robbie Williams? I might pick up the odd track from him, but I can assure you, I'd never actually intentionally spend money to listen to him. So are the music companies losing out on money, or am I just picking up a few the songs because they're free?
It is also important to recognize the changes that are occurring in technology. The MP3 is actually outdated, and even as we speak, record companies are working on new ways to protect their products so that they can not be illegally copied and spread over the Internet. They're not standing idly by, and while they may now only be aware of the extent of the problem, they'll eventually catch up.
The court decision against Napster this week is the first sign of what is yet to come. While it may have been shut down, there are still millions and millions of MP3s out there. Better yet, there are millions of people willing to share them.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000