OK, lets start off with this fact: I'm a fan and supporter of Napster. Whew. Now that that is off my chest lets discuss it a bit. For those of you who may not know, Napster is a system that allows private computers users to interconnect and share archived music files stored in MP3 form. Millions of users have hundreds of millions of musical selections archived, and these files can be easily swapped among Napster members. What's wrong with that, you say? Well, here's what the Recording Industry says: Copyright infringement. Lost Revenues. Death of the Music Industry. Artists and song writers suffering due to lost earnings. Know what I say? Phooey!
First of all, copyright is a big and complicated issue. When you get right down to it, everyone has at some point infringed on somebody's copyright. Have you ever taped a song on a cassette and given it to a friend? Ran an interesting newspaper or magazine article thru the copier and sent it to a friend or relative 'cause you though it of interest to them? Ever copied and pasted something from a web page article or e-mail newsletter into an e-mail and sent it off to a co-worker? How about you had the service manual for an antique jukebox, and you copied a couple pages and sent them off in the mail so a friend you met who lives on the other side of the country could repair his jukebox? Ever scanned a photo from a magazine to use on a web site? Downloaded an image or logo from a web page and used it on your own? Each and every one of these actions is copyright infringement. In each case you have taken someone elses intellectual property and given it to someone else who would otherwise have had to PAY for it. YOU deprived Wurlitzer of the twenty five cents they would have earned by getting that wiring diagram to the guy who needed it. That is, if it was available at all.
Here is how Napster has worked at my home and work. My son, the blues fanatic uses it to download, listen to, and learn from the blues masters. My daughters use it to find songs by artists they know. I use it to find obscure music, and more common material that I can't find in my local store. I work in radio programming. We use Napster to download songs for airplay that we can't find other places. All of us have made substantial purchases of music based on things we have heard on Napster. My son gets the Stevie Ray Vaughn box set. Something I wouldn't have paid for unless I knew it was what we wanted. I ordered TWO Cliff Edwards CD's after discovering material was available and heard a few off Napster. We add songs to the radio station playlist...an action that gets the ARTIST more money as we pay BMI/ASCAP and SESAC for the rights to broadcast the music. When we play songs by a given artist, that artist gets paid. He wouldn't get paid if we didn't have the music accessible.
Around here (small town USA) we use Napster to get music that's simply NOT available anywhere else to us. When the local ice skating club wants to have a group of little kids skate to "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue" we can't simply go downtown and BUY it. It's NOT there. (Oh..it's not there because the record company knows they'll make more money selling 43 million copies of the latest N'Sync CD than selling semething GOOD. Can't waste that shelf space ya know). We don't even have a store that will let us special order. Which version might we want? Well, with Napster we found several versions, chose one, and the kids are skating to it. Oh..by the way, the skating club PAYS BMI/ASCAP/SESAC for the rights to use this music in their performances. Oops..those pesky artists got paid AGAIN! Think I'm gonna find any Spike Jones records around here to buy? How about the thousands and thousands of tunes on Napster that AREN'T available at retail AT ALL? If the recording industry is going to complain that we're keeping them from making money, then they better damn well make sure that EVERYTHING they have the rights to is READILY available, and at a FAIR PRICE!
We all know what this really comes down to don't we. It comes down to BIG BUSINESS trying to SUCK MORE money out of us, AND control the music industry as they have done for YEARS. They're worried that the PEOPLE may discover that they don't HAVE to buy the CRAP they force feed to us, AND that ARTISTS may find a way to sell music WITHOUT the blessing of the BIG companies. Notice in my examples above the ARTISTS got PAID for performances of the music. The RECORD Companies didn't, but then, they didn't sell me anything either. Record companies are running scared that the public will rediscover music and come to the realization that the big guys are feeding us demographic analyzed CRAP. With Napster and MP3.com and their related technologies it's possible for an artist to record and distribute their music worldwide WITHOUT a big company behind them. Statistics I've seen (NOT those provided by the INDUSTRY but by REAL people) show most Napster users buy MORE music than non-Napster users. Remember the record companies are trying to put a STOP to MP3 technology itself! It makes it too easy for people to distribute their OWN music without a big company behind them! Oh NO! Power to the common man! With NO room for a PROFIT margin!
Oh sure, there are plenty of teenagers getting their Britney Spears and N'Sync tunes for free exchanging files on Napster. And we can all see how Britney and the boys are just barely surviving on the few meager dollars they're bringing in what with all the rampant piracy going on...NOT!! What's actually happening is people are now paying what this "music" is worth..NOTHING! It's preprogrammed doo doo horse droppings designed to do ONE THING! That thing is to MAKE THE RECORD COMPANIES MORE MONEY! That's why they're fighting NAPSTER so HARD. They're not worried that their artists aren't making money, they're worried that THEY are going to have a more difficult time EXPLOITING their artists to make more MONEY!
Now, I'm all for copyright, and for artists and writers getting their due. We all know that big industry is raping the public with their marketing and crap music. But on the other hand there are plenty of worthwhile artists out there too. Generally not represented by big business, but they're out there. Whats interesting is, in these cases their CD sales are UP. Lets see..new, independent, creative artists are selling MORE music, while the BIG BOYS whose artists are selling MILLIONS of CD's are complaining they're losing money! You figure it out. Napster is the ANTI-BRAINWASHING tonic we've been needing for years.
Now the world is slow to change, especially when old, out dated laws are involved, mixed with a good batch of big business dollars and high powered lawyers. I suspect that Napster will have plenty of problems getting this worked out. Maybe they'll have to become "subscription based" so they can throw money into the coffers of the record companies. I'd still sign up, and still enjoy finding great music that leads me to BUY more. I do think it would be interesting to see what percentage of music bought by Napster users came from independent labels and artists themselves as opposed to the big guys. Hmmm. Probably piss the big guys off even more.
Check the web and read the news and statistics. Use your very own brain and figure it out.