Napster thought of the day
Posted by: The Other Joe ()
Date: February 16, 2001 06:49AM

I think Napster ought to be shut down.

When Napster started out it seemed like such a great tool with equal potential for both good and bad. The inventor claimed to be an agent of good who just wanted an easier way to share music with his friends. With a bit of school boy charm, he said that his invention could actually help an artist have her music heard by more people. Both of these claims seemed reasonable and noble sounding at the time.

Somewhere along the way to this particular court case, Mr. Fanning either has lost sight of his original vision or has had it exposed as a fraud. How you might perceive him really depends on your point of view. Either way, you can no longer claim, at this time, that his business conducts itself according to either of these two principles or any others. He is no longer just a music fan, he has become a business man. He is tainted by money.

His defense is, on some points and to some degree, valid. For example, it is clear that the laws of at least his country permit home tape recording of copyrighted works to give to friends. However, it is equally clear that making an unlimited number of digital copies of material and sitting them out for anyone in the world to take is certainly not what any good citizen (which is why David Boies is one of his attorneys) would believe qualifies as fair use. Most of his defense is centered around this unusually weak argument. If he had implemented some sort of ICQ or IM type buddy system, the defense may have worked. His problem is that sharing of music between ONLY friends wasn't designed into the software.

The other problem with this defense is that it wholeheartedly embraces and extends the Audio Home Recording Act while cheerfully narrowing and ignoring the provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. I know that the recording industry takes the opposite approach to great extremes, but that doesn't excuse Napster's stupidity. The incredibly absurd thing is that they probably could have avoided any trouble by simpling assigning one person to respond to reports of copyright abuse (wink wink) and another person who occasionally patrolled the servers for copyright violations (nudge nudge). It would have taken little or no effort to demonstrate even an imaginary commitment to copyright protection that would have passed the court's muster. Their decision to not make it an issue is what made it an issue. That isn't electronic freedom or a brave new world, it's just really bad business.

Which, of course, is my next complaint. This whole Napster thing was just somebody's hobby until it was unleashed onto the whole Internet. At least that's what the big Sean said in all his early interviews. Gee shucks, I'm just a college kid goofing off. I had no idea. Blah blah blah. I don't believe him anymore. I'm not sure I ever did, but I've been told that I'm cynical. I believe that Napster was intended as a business from the very beginning. If I'm just Joe Dude doing things for kicks, I tell Mr. Greenmail venture capitalist to just keep his wallet in his pocket because I really dislike standing in a suit next to slick lawyers. Putting a link to CDNow was a clever ploy to propogate the whole big "it's just a music promotion tool" scam, but hopping in bed with BMG shows what a pack of big fat hypocrites Napster is.

I don't mind hypocrisy. I'm a hypocrite all the time. It's my human nature. I can't control myself. Still, I don't go around building big lucrative businesses around my ability to spin a charming tale of deceit. Good people just don't change 180° over the course of a year. You don't just go from doing good to doing bad unless you were never all that good to begin with. And that doesn't even address the whole notion of scamming some cut of a business in which you don't even legally participate. Didn't we used to call those things racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations?

Don't just shut them down. Lock them up.


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SubjectViewsWritten ByPosted
Napster thought of the day179 The Other Joe 02/16/2001 06:49AM
Re: Napster thought of the day 139 Filip Bondy 02/17/2001 06:27AM
the hypocrisy of Napster's enemies 140 FORD 02/18/2001 09:19AM
What nonsense 160 Misterpomp 02/18/2001 09:17PM
Re: What nonsense 163 Eric Abrahamsen 02/18/2001 11:36PM
I agree but... 137Surfpunk02/19/2001 06:14AM
Re: I agree but... 148 ddregs 02/20/2001 07:58AM

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