July 30, 2000
8:49 PM   Subscribe

Mister Lance adds a bunch more words into the Napster debate. "Napster bad," he says, for the most part. But the opinions are thought-out and justified.
posted by endquote (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As I just e-mailed to Lance:

A car is not a copyright. You can own a car forever. You cannot own a copyright forever -- the right is limited. Copyright was created as a balance between the good of society and the need to encourage the creation of new work. If Napster is making money for the copyright owners, there should be no ground to kill this new medium and send its 20 million users elsewhere -- Metallica would have more financial incentive to create art as a result of file-sharing.

Is it technically illegal to copy a song without permission of the rights owner? Yes. Ten years ago, it was illegal to drive over 55 on interstate highways. People broke that law all the time once it became stupid and outdated -- improvements in automobiles and auto safety made a 55-mph limit ridiculous. Eventually, the laws caught up with reality.

I'd like to see that happen here. Napster is great -- I've been calling up music I had forgotten about and ordering more CDs than I have in 10 years. I can't believe so many Webheads are eager to kill an entire new medium so readily. The Web could have been choked in its infancy for copyright reasons, too. Maybe there's societal good in Napster that isn't being considered as we focus on the letter of copyright law.
posted by rcade at 9:31 PM on July 30, 2000

I understand Lance's position, and his points are logical and realistic if Napster is to continue as is for all eternity. We've talked this topic to death here many times before, but I suppose the one thing I want to hear from everyone is the final point Lance comes to a grinding halt on (and it's the same point most all of us come to a grinding halt in the arguments as well), what are the solutions?

Is what eMusic doing the right thing? Unlimited downloads of all sorts of bands on good bandwidth for ten bucks a month. Would you pay for reliable bandwidth?

Is mp3.com's plan better? Offer samples or entire albums and ask people to buy hybrid CD/mp3 discs to support the artist?

Should napster instead become a record label themselves, or work with the record labels to redistribute any income derived from the network and give that to the artists?

Can anyone think of something else?

The genie is out of the bottle, down the street, and on a plane to another continent. The bottle was broken long ago. People have gotten the sweet taste of freebies via peer to peer networks, but is there any direction anyone can steer the development of new p2p projects to make things better for the copyright holders? Is it too late simply because we've seen the worse possible (in terms of copyright infringement) implementation that also happened to be the first popular implementation of network sharing?

solutions, solutions, solutions, what the hell are we to do?

Given all that is wrong with napster and artists' rights, you know, I know, and Lance knows there's something there that is magical and great about napster. Maybe it's just the effect of everyone participating on the network and the whole being something better than the parts, but I sincerely hope something that taps into that kind of thing can continue to exist and satisfy copyright holders.
posted by mathowie at 9:53 PM on July 30, 2000

I think Lance's last statement makes a very interesting argument. If Napster is OK, then blatant copying of web designs, graphics and code also seems justified. As long as you don't try to sell those items, but only use them to enhance other commercial aspects of your site.
posted by PaperCut at 10:47 PM on July 30, 2000

horrendously gratuitous link but it got too long to put here. I've wasted enough of Matt's webspace already, I think.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:57 PM on July 30, 2000

The Biggest Picture (very, very long post - my apologies, brain is on overload):

Where we are right now is witness to the end of the software distribution model. That's the big story. It isn't just about music, it isn't just about encryption, it isn't just about rights. It's about taking the distributed, unorganized, unclassified network model that the Internet is built on to its ultimate conclusion.

Forget CDs. Forget DVDs. Forget books. Forget media. Media is worthless. Think, instead, of the path we're on now. The Internet is a distributed network of clients and servers. There is traffic that has been bpassing through servers to your client. To this point, your client was a silent, dumb, non-working member of this society. The servers were doing all the work. Right?

Enter Napster (as an example, and NOT as end product). Napster blurs the line between client and server, because it makes your client a server. It opens up your accessway to others to come in, not just for you to get out. Okay, with me so far?

Now, extend that to a digital television recorder like TiVO. TiVO is a computer running Linux using your TV as a monitor. It hooks up to a very fast network via coax. The cable network is much, much faster than your Web connection because the amount of data it takes to create those moving pictures on your screen is immense.

Now, add Napster to TiVO. Make an interface bewteen TiVO and your stereo system that is two way. Load your CD collection on TiVO's hard drive, database it so you can access it through your TV, keying up any track, any album, any artist you want. Then use Napster to out to other TiVO owners and see what's on their system.

Now, give everyone who owns a TV a TiVO.

Still with me?

Next, install a networked multimedia device in your car. Use Bluetooth to download what you want from your collection to the drive in your trunk. Better yet, fuck the drive in your trunk, you're already pulling down FM airwaves, make your car system a wireless, driveless client tied to the distributed network and put in a voice recognition system so you can say, "Find Donna Summer," and it answers, "Ready," and you say "Find Bad Girls," and it starts playing a second later. Or, "Find Steven King." "Ready." "Play The Shining." "Audio book or motion picture?" "Send movie to home system, play audio."

This, friends, is where we're going. This means the end of CDs and DVDs. You don't give a crap about owning anything you hold in your hand anymore. Digital media is the breakdown of that entire process. The Internet - a global, unpoliced, unprotected, uncentralized, vastly distributed network - shatters all barriers between getting access and having access. You simply have it. There's no way to shut down the source because there is no single source to shut down. You are consumer and distributor.

In this scheme, how do we protect intellectual property?

Why I wrote what I wrote is that I object to the fact that copyright holders (using Metallica as an example) are being told they are forfeiting their rights, and that's tough, and shut up and deal with it. They are not being asked, "May we do this now, and figure out the details later?" They're being told, "We're doing this with your stuff." When the creator says, "Not with my stuff, you aren't." They are told, "Screw you, yes we are, you can't stop us." What course is left except the courts? And people whining that it isn't fair and they have a right to doing just what they please with property that isn't theirs pisses me off.

Matt, I have no idea what the solution is. Maybe there is no single solution. Maybe we can't create one because the problem doesn't actually exist yet - we're standing on the tracks and we can see the train coming. Panic and fear are setting in. "I'm losing control of my creation." Some people are fine with that, but I'm willing to bet they aren't making their living with that creation.

What about them that are? How do they get compensated in a world without controls? Obviously, you set controls. Okay, in the distributed model, where does control come from?

posted by honkzilla at 1:32 AM on July 31, 2000

I should point out that when I say "software" I don't mean, literally, computer application software. I'm referring to any media used on hardware. Audio CDs and tapes are software for your stereo hardware. Sony referred to their purchase of CBS records and the Columbia movie studio as "software providers" for their bread and butter, which is the hardware used to run it all. The above description concerning the breakdown of the distribution model can also contain computer software as well - as any warez owning person can attest.
posted by honkzilla at 1:40 AM on July 31, 2000

Lance, the argument you use above is a better one than on your web site. Cleaner, more concise.

Here's the problem: The situation you describe has already been with us for years. Well, kinda. It just hasn't been indexed.

Do you remember the software scene in the mid-1980's? Everything was copy protected. I mean everything, and in some fairly devious ways. The market responded as you might expect: There were bunches of products, including hardware, to help one defeat the protection.

Then a funny thing happened. Borland brought out its Quattro spreadsheet... and it wasn't protected. Quattro was soon followed by Borland's Paradox database. And they both sold like hotcakes. Lotus brought suit against Borland over Quattro's "look-and-feel", but that was because no one dared admit that non-copy-protected software could outsell copy-protected software.

Then Microsoft did the same thing, with Excel, then Word, then everything else. Even Lotus and Ashton-Tate eventually gave up, and took out copy protection. Because sales increased. (Although it turned out to be too late for either of them.)

The point is that the Clean Big Secret (as opposed to dirty little secret) of software is that It's All Shareware.

Piracy always moves to be directly proportional to sales. If piracy really was "theft", it would be inversely proportional to sales. How many pirated copies of OS/2 were there? Javelin? dBASE IV? Compare that to, how many copies were made of Windows? DOS? Excel? Word?

Who's the most pirated software company on the planet?

This was Netscape's mistake, by the way. They thought Microsoft could never compete on price with a shareware company. Microsoft, though, has always known that it's at heart a shareware company, too.

The real problem here -- one that has bearing right into the MS anti-trust lawsuit -- is the complete disconnect between the law and reality.

See, sooner or later, one of the record labels is going to realize that one person's piracy is another person's free advertising... Or that maybe radio (speaking of an advertising medium) didn't kill records after all, and in fact, labels pay for play... And that maybe, maybe, cutting loose the catalog on MP3 will behave like every other medium over the last thirty years and generate sales (god, what a leap of faith, eh?)...

It's like Big Tobacco. Sooner or later, one of the labels is going to break.

posted by aurelian at 2:50 AM on July 31, 2000

shorter, more concise approach (everyone needs an editor):

In this scheme, how do we protect intellectual property?

Lance, there isn't any protection of intellectual property now. There hasn't been for years. And many of the companies on the top of the intellectual property heap got there by flouting all the concepts of "protecting" intellectual property.

"Intellectual property" as a concept is a chimera. It's FUD. It's a way of convincing programmers, artists, musicians, actors, you-name-it, that you really do need the "protection" of lawyers, the "protection" of big employers, the "services" of advertising agencies.

That's why a direct connection between creators and audience always scares the bejeezus out of these intermediaries.

How do you protect something you don't have now? Why must the future conform to a higher, even more unattainable standard than the present?

posted by aurelian at 3:03 AM on July 31, 2000

Copyright broke the hierarchy of authorial patronage; it turned writers into professionals. It gave them the power of independence from the agenda of their patrons. If we're heading back to an era which essentially challenges the modern (ie 18th-century) model of copyright, we're likely to turn our artists into bitches. In the case of the music industry, we're already heading that way.
posted by holgate at 7:14 AM on July 31, 2000

Okay. I lied. I just can't resist this one.

Didn't we go through all this back when Betamax and VHS were fighting for superiority over something that didn't even exist yet? Less than thirty years ago. A business which now is worth millions but back then everyone said it would destroy the filmmaking industry and lead to chaos. I remember that one. I lived through it.

I can recall as a child the day my parents bought their first microwave oven. I must have been about three. The guy who sold it to them said we'd never have to go to a restaurant again. Someday all kitchen appliances would be obsolete. The stove would be replaced by the microwave. No. That guy was just blowing smoke up my parent's butts. He was wrong. The microwave has become just a part of the kitchen now. The blender is still there, sometimes upgraded to the 'food processor.' A lot of other appliances are in the kitchen now, but the toaster still has its place. The microwave's good for popcorn and heating up stuff you've already cooked once, but you can't cook a good beef patty without a decent grill. You can't nuke a Thanksgiving turkey properly. The microwave did change our lives, but the stove had nothing to worry about. It's still there.

Perhaps there are not as many career dishwashers as there were fifty years ago. However, there still has to be someone to put the dishes into the machine. I'm sure he gets paid, and can do other things now too. Now that anybody can buy an inexpensive camera, does that mean no one needs to hire photographers anymore? Of course not, because there are some better at it than others, and cheaper camera equiptment created new employment. Those people who develop film at the local pharmacy in under an hour. Those people who chase after celebrities and annoy everybody. For better or for worse, technology created photography jobs. It didn't take them away.

Didn't we have problems like this when TV and before that radio first appeared? Being able to broadcast into people's homes from New York or Los Angeles. Suddenly the world got smaller, and you didn't have to travel across the country in order to experience the talent and humor of Milton Berle, or Steve Allen.

Didn't they have a similar issue with all this about a hundred or so years ago? When Thomas Edison came up with this nifty way to actually capture sound and save it on a groove wrapped around a cylinder? Did anybody have a problem with it back then? When someone was able to reproduce the voice and musical talent of another for comparatively little effort? Just crank the player and suddenly you sound as good as an entire brass band. So that artist didn't even have to be in the room, or the country for that matter, in order to be heard?

Wasn't someone uncomfortable with that then?

There are still primitive cultures on this planet who despise the idea of cameras or anything that records their voice or their features. Some believe this 'steals a piece of the soul.' Are we approaching this new technology with the same fear and ignorance that a primitive culture did to the first National Geographic exploration team that discovered them?

Haven't we been through all this before, as a people? As far as we've come, have we learned nothing from our past? The only constant in the universe is change.

For every innovation there was a change to our lifestyles. Some more dramatic than others. Some changes have been so subtle they were never even documented. Or noticed. Some professions disappeared. Others simply evolved or adapted. Still others were created out of necessity or convenience. Those organizations and entities and individuals which could not adapt and evolve simply withered away. Nature abhors a vacuum. Other things took their place, and still other groups endured and survived and even improved upon their previous existence.

Perhaps the problem is that the idea of copyright itself is faulty and a crippled concept. Perhaps we don't need to come up with a new business model. We need to re-evaluate why copyright was needed in the first place, and how better to serve that. We just need to adapt. This really isn't as difficult as we're making it out to be. We've survived worse than this before.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:36 AM on July 31, 2000

Perspective is everything. I posted mine over here this morning -- basically, I view the debate from the active-consumer issue, while Lance's essay is from a wary-artist one. Neither of us is wrong. But neither of us is listening to the other. And that is the Napster debate in a nutshell.

posted by werty at 9:07 AM on July 31, 2000

Sorry for potentially splintering thie discussion, but ZachsMind's mention of Edison phonograph recordings was an interesting allusion, considering the anti-RIAA sentiment that some napster users seem to nurse in an attempt at morally justifying their actions. I'm not sure when this was changed, but early Edison recordings often would not even have the name of the performer on the cylinder case; my history teacher showed us a circa 1910 phonograph cylinder that had 3 pictures of Edison on it, along with at least 10 mentions of his name. Phonographs were largely (until the 1920s or later) a novelty; there still existed a great demand for live performers. The interest was more in the technology than the application... and from my own experiences, the use of Napster and MP3's of popular, easilty attainable music is similar. (This same phenomenon could also explain GaboCorp's early popularity...) Anyway, I think that the fact that Edison completely controlled all recorded music at that time is an interesting thing to consider (in addition to controlling all moview produced in the US; the reason Hollywood was founded was that it was far away from Edison's New Jersey studio and conveniently close to Mexico should Edison try to arrest the rebel moviemakers.)

Okay, now back on topic.I know many people, myself included who have mp3s that haven't been listened to for months. I would guess that the majority of mp3 trading is not actually "stealing" from the artists. The digital nature of mp3s makes them different than conventional goods. If you take a car without paying for it, because it is easily obtainable, you are wasting the product of someone's labor. You can't make one car, copy it, and distribute it. However, you can make a copy of digital audio and distribute it... but in my opinion the distribution of digital goods is not always stealing in a conventional sense. If a consumer takes the free mp3 in lieu of buying a copy of the music, they are stealing. But it is a much more grey area if someone takes a copy of the music, but they never would have paid for it in the first place. Once again it comes down to making a convention out of personal morality though. I know that lots of people really are pirating mp3s and leeching sales away from artists who deserve their support. Sorry for this slightly disjointed reply, but my feelings on this aren't as concrete as Lance's etc. (in addition to not being as articulate).
posted by kidsplateusa at 11:19 AM on July 31, 2000

addendum: In an even more grey-area issue (if slightly tongue in cheek), would it be moral to buy a legitamate copy of Steal This Album? It is one of the few things I've foun on Napster that I consider worth buying, but... For people older than me, did anyone you know actually buy Steal This Book?
posted by kidsplateusa at 11:25 AM on July 31, 2000

The real question we have to ask ourselves is this:

Do we care about artifacts?

It would be an easy task to publish an entire book on a web site, and set up micropayments to read each chapter.

Most people will not do this. Why? A lot of people like those little physical objects we call books. Many people wouldn't part with them. Not only because it's easier to read a book than a computer screen, let alone the portability issues - but because it's a book. People like books.

It's about materialism.

Newspapers didn't see a huge decrease in sales like they thought when the web frenzy broke.

The big deal is that we can burn our own CDs now. We have items like the Rio.

It's much cheaper to create a CD than it is to create a book. And that is due to medium.

People are fond of medium. Because people are collectors. We all collect something. It's just a matter of what. It's because these things remind us of the past.

The people who always bought CDs, tapes or records always will. Because they like buying those objects. They like looking at the art, reading the liner notes, and handling the disc. It's ritualistic.

The people who are into sampling or who simply didn't ever buy CDs will probably split halfway. They'll be burning their own, or they'll be converted into the collector.

It's really the CD-burning technology that the RIAA should have kept better control over. Because that's been the main focus over the industry all along. Recording.

This is not about copyright, and I will venture to say it never was. This is (as many others have said) about control.

My opinion: RIAA need to give up the ghost and start spinning this in their direction.

Sidenote: Napster buycott? Doesn't make any sense. I appreciate they are trying to send a message to the RIAA through positive reinforcement, but it just doesn't make sense logically -

1) Buy CDs to show support.
2) RIAA takes your money
3) RIAA pays for more legal bills

I'd rather send a check to the artists for half the price of the CD and send a check to napster for the other half. It would be putting my money where I think it deserves to go.
posted by dgallo at 1:12 PM on July 31, 2000

Again, people seem to be missing the point:


Musicians (or the copyright holders) are neither giving consent nor receiving compensation for having their work copied and distributed by millions of pirates.

Don't give me your bullshit moralizing anymore. Quite frankly, I've heard enough justifications and self-serving excuses to last me a lifetime.

YOU WANT SHIT FOR FREE. That's the ONLY appeal of Napster. Just fucking admit it, okay? This isn't ideological at all; it's all about not wanting to shell out bucks. It's all about people feeling entitled to steal music without worrying about the consequences of their actions.

If Zach's right, and this is some sort of huge shift, it's a shift of greed and laziness. Pure and simple.

Stop acting all holier-than-thou and just admit that you don't actually give a shit about compensating the artist; you just want free music.
posted by solistrato at 1:52 PM on July 31, 2000

I don't give a shit about compensating the artist, i just want free music.
posted by corpse at 2:34 PM on July 31, 2000

Why are weblog authors so obsessive about their right to steal music? The only topic that generates more heat and hits on Metafilter is anything with the word "bloggers" in the title. (Bloggers will read it to make sure they aren't being insulted.)

Next year, President George W. Bush could declare martial law, suspend the Miranda Act, and declare war on Chile, and bloggers would still be arguing about Napster and blogging.

When Greg Knauss threatened to eat a bug (and then ate a bug) the comments came pouring in.

When he damns Mozilla, they don't.

One would expect people who create websites to have opinions about web standards and web browsers. One would be wrong.

And one would expect people who shriek when they think someone has stolen their site design elements to understand why record companies might feel the same way. Wrong again.

Napster, bloggers, bloggers, Napster. Nothing else matters. Sheez whiz.
posted by Zeldman at 3:13 PM on July 31, 2000

Solistrato, I've shelled out more bucks for music in the last year than I think I ever have in my life. I DO care about compensating the artist, but only if they personally give me reason to do so. The way it has worked until now, the artist is locked up inside a building, or wrapped up in cellophane, and I have to pay a cover charge or buy the product and drive it home before I even know what I'm getting. Ideally it should be that if you like the music, and you want more and you want to support the people who created this sound so they'll create more, then you go to them and you.. well, you support them.

Why is this so difficult for humans to digest? You like an artist, you support their efforts. The artist shouldn't feel like they have to get their money up front. It shouldn't have to work that way.

Before all this happened, I usually spent my free nights at home. Occasionally I'd go to a friend's house when I was invited. I didn't know where to go and I didn't care. Now, I head out to a club or a bar and listen to some great music. If I like what I hear I go up and shake their hand after the show, we talk a bit. Maybe I buy a CD or a T-shirt. I've introduced musicians to each other. I suggested they do something like DAM and while DAM has become something uniquely different from what I had in mind, I'm proud of their efforts and I'm proud to be a part of it. And yes, since I know money is what really makes the world go around, I've paid my yearly DAM dues (even though I'm not actually a "band" per se) and continue to find other ways, as I can afford it, to support the local Dallas music scene.

Maybe some people are getting their music for free. I sure ain't one of them.

Corpse is right though. Without some sort of organized and consistent system, most people will just take the music and not give a crap about the people creating it.

Where was it I read this? Someone once said to Jerry Garcia that music should be free, and Jerry said, "where were you when I was practicing my guitar?" True artists literally play until they BLEED.

That's gotta be worth something more than free.

There's this guy here in Texas. If only you could see him play! You'd know exactly what I mean. You walk in on a free open mike night. This guy goes up there, does a couple tunes, then he pulls out his SECOND guitar... I am not kidding.

If you could sit there and listen to this guy live, watch him play. Watch what the music does to him and what it does to the audience. It's like watching a man tame the grecian Sirens. If you could sit there and listen and NOT feel compelled to give a little back to this guy for a memorable evening of sound... well you just suck.

It's about the music but that includes giving credit where its due.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:55 PM on July 31, 2000

Well, since I mentioned it in another post, I went looking for some recent stuff on Xanadu. Turns out Ted Nelson wrote an article that tries to tackle many of these issues. Yeah, it's tied to the most famous snark hunt in software history... But what do y'all think?

solistrato: I have about $12,000 of CDs. Yup, that's about 1000, in three glass cases from IKEA (250 each) and then the rest scattered throughout the apartment. If you can ante up to that, or if you can cite counterexamples to the real-world, money-talks examples I've given to support my position... Then you can talk about what a thieving bastard I am. (And that's before we get into all the registered shareware I have, and have had, since about 1990 or so.)

Show me. Don't just get on your high horse and spout a theory that was designed to keep the creators quiet on the plantation. Show me. If you're right, there should be dozens of bankrupt bands, software companies, book publishers, movie studios, etc. that you could mention who went out of business because they were copied to death over the last thirty years. Show me.

posted by aurelian at 4:17 PM on July 31, 2000

Solistrato: I give a shit about the artist. I DON'T JUST WANT FREE MUSIC. To all of you who don't like MP3 trading: Stop frigging SLANDERING everyone who trades MP3s just because YOU don't agree with them. (And you call them 'holier-than-thou'? You're the ones saying "Trading is STEALING and STEALING is WRONG and you're all going to HELL and that's the end of it!")

I want my friend Andrew to have a chance to reach an audience. I think his music is brilliant, no lie, and I want people to buy his stuff. But how is he to promote his band? He has a day job. They do gigs locally but they can't afford to tour. In the current environment, dominated by the "music industry" (and isn't that an ugly term when you think about it?), the Slow Poisoners have a limited number of choices. They can stay small and never make any significant amount of money from their music until finally they can't afford it anymore and they quit; thousands of people who would have loved their work will never hear of them. Or they can tour like maniacs, living in a van, risking everything on the hopes of achieving indie success a la Ani DiFranco, which is a long shot at best. Or they can sign to a major label and get screwed in ways we're all, I hope, familiar with at this late date in the MP3 argument game.

Music distribution is controlled by for-profit entities. They are interested in serving mass audiences. They are less interested in serving small, specific audiences. They are not at all interested in distributing music unless there's money in it. But music is a subjective experience, a cultural experience, an artistic experience, and a lot of music fans resent the fact that albums and songs are packaged and peddled like bars of soap or cans of beans: virtually interchangeable except for the promotion and packaging.

It's not hard to understand why we want alternatives to the current system. Music stores had shelves and shelves of the currently teenybopper crap while I had a hard time finding Belle & Sebastian's first album before and after Fold Your Hands came out and hit 80 on the Billboard sales charts, when you might expect stores to stock up on their back catalogue. One of my favorite bands, the Judybats, broke up because they were getting screwed by their label. Their music was as catchy as Third Eye Blind-- they just weren't getting any promotion. Radiohead's OK Computer got label support and sold quite well. Equally amazing albums like The Eel's Electroshock Blues? Nothing. Folk Implosion's One Part Lullaby is a goddamn pop masterpiece, as tight and well-produced and ear-pleasing as any album you could name, but it's on an indie label so it's not getting any airplay and most people I recommend it to have never heard of the band.

I cared about this stuff BEFORE MP3s, okay? And MP3s are exciting and worth arguing about, because finally here's an alternative way to get your music out there.
I see the same future Lance does, and I too am interested in finding a way to make that possible while still paying the artist-- the ARTIST, not the book company, not the record label. The difference is, I see MP3s as a positive step towards a fairly compensated future, because the record labels are failing and will continue to fail to protect artists from getting copied for free-- because they're not willing to compromise one iota of their own sizable profit margin. That will lead more artists to realize-- as Courtney Love did-- that new technology can make record labels irrelevant. That you don't need a corporation eating up 15/16ths of your earnings to get your music out to the world. Sure, there will always be people who just want to be superstars, and the labels will doubtless still exist to promote those people, raise them up, move a lot of units and go on to the next thing. But the 90% of music that now passes under the cultural radar won't have to languish unheard due to of the deafening noise of the top 10%, because you won't have to tune into the label-controlled venues for music sampling like radio and MTV; you'll get them passed along to you from some guy in Germany who noticed on your homepage that you liked Blonde Redhead and thought you'd probably like Sigur Ros as well.

Artists with any kind of savvy, in the meantime, will embrace this new technology in the short term as 'the new radio', as Chuck D. puts it, and trust that in the long term some extremely smart, lucky, and soon-to-be-rich person will figure out how to fairly negotiate the consumer desire for cheap, fluidly distributed music with the artist's need for compensation.

I think most indie artists believe that when the MP3 technology brouhaha all shakes out, things are going to be a lot more open and better for them. That's why so many have accounts on MP3.com, why the Poisoners give away some singles as MP3s.

BTW, Zeldman, that's why I for one continue to follow and argue in all the MP3-related threads. I'd love to be, or join forces with, that smart, lucky person who figures out how to make MP3s work for audiences AND artists. I'm confident it's possible, and I care about the outcome (enough to write at staggering length-- sorry Matt!) I see potential for a better way to distribute music that's fairer to both listener and creator. This is about more than free music in MP3 format, more than just hand-wringing over copyrights. Like Lance said, it's a new way to distribute ALL information, all media, but where Lance is pessimistic about protecting creators in this environment, I really believe it can be done and WILL be done... maybe by someone who's considering all the implications of the technology, right here on MeFi.
posted by wiremommy at 4:59 PM on July 31, 2000

Well written wiremommy.

When you have passion for something you want to speak up. The people that like music will support artists. Hmmmm, it seems kind of strange to go into a frenzy to stop people getting music that would never buy it in the first place. The rest of you that enjoy music and don't support those that made it are simply selfish fools and might eventually succumb to guilt or receive some type of karmic lashing. Either way I have more faith in people then to believe the number of real "theives" is significant to hurt artists. If I'm wrong, damn that is way too depressing to contemplate.

posted by john at 6:14 PM on July 31, 2000

wiremommy: isn't there already a way for independent artists to promote their music? isn't it called the web? i've had my music and my brother's music online since 1995. crappy recordings - in my copious free time i should convert to MP3 and design better pages for 'em - but then again, i'm not actively trying to promote the music. if i were, the pages would be spiffy and the files would be superclean.

i guess i'm not understanding how napster makes it easier for little-known artists to distribute their work, when they can already do so via MP3 files on websites. but i could easily be missing the point.

there are people who have quasi-religious feelings about this issue. i don't share those feelings, so i probably shouldn't participate in this conversation. to some people this is apparently about freedom of speech. i thought it was just about free music files. and record companies coming down, the same way adobe would come down on a "photoshop warez" site.
posted by Zeldman at 9:51 PM on July 31, 2000

I wrote a whole little thing last night and forgot to do the second 'post' after the preview. Damn.

Basically, what I said was that I'm coming down on Napster's side. Lance was right in what he said - people can choose if they want to give their stuff away for free, but no one is letting them make that choice.

It's another example of technology letting people be lazy. (you knew I'd mention that). It is technologically feasible to filter what can be sent over these trading systems. But they haven't made that next step because it would cost them money, most likely. And open the door for a competitor that isn't worried about legal issues.

Look, trading music has always been around. There was implicit permission as dual tape decks, dual video players, recordable CD's came out. Record companies and Hollywood challenged them and failed. They failed because they couldn't prove that these home-based sets were being used to create illegal copies on a mass scale. And that is the only reason. Sure, we all have taped a record or video for a friend. But Napster lets you do it for 20 million people.

Sure, the scale shouldn't really be an issue - stealing is stealing. But then again, you can steal a stick of gum from a store or you can break in the back door and steal a pallet of boxes of gum.

And this argument that consumers are rebelling against the record industry machine fore the sake of the little guy is self-serving and just a load of hooey. If people wanted to suppor the little guys, they'd buy more independent music from places like Riffage, or from the band's home pages.

But the majority of napster users are trading pop, and are trading pop because they don't want to go buy the album for the one hit song.

Or even pay for that song because for many new albums, you can go to the artist's home page (usually sponsored by the recording company, of course) and pay for a download of the most popular song and actually own a legal copy. But do they do that? No.

It's all very silly to me.
posted by rich at 7:16 AM on August 1, 2000

rich: I did the exact same thing last night. It was a bad night for posting I think.

Zeldman: i thought it was just about free music files.

Heh. Even _I_ couldn't repeatedly type raging, many-paragraphed rants over free music files every time napster gets our attention here.

I think that's part of the reason this is such a popular thing to rant about. There are people arguing against stealing, and there are people arguing for freedom of information, and we're just not paying attention to each other, or really addressing each other's good points too often.

It's been mostly civil, and it's an extremely entertaining way to pass an hour here and there, and it's helped me refine my own opinion on the matter, and really that's why people continually debate, isn't it?
posted by cCranium at 7:47 AM on August 1, 2000

isn't there already a way for independent artists to promote their music? isn't it called the web?

Sure, and that's a big part of it. Personally the main thing I like about Napster is that you can chat with people while you trade files. And the reason I support Napster is because unlike the open-source versions, Napster is for-profit and they are eventually going to have to find a way to make money, legitimately, from music trading. They're going to have to come up with a fair way to compensate the artists (or buy the idea from the lucky smart person I mentioned before). If Napster is squashed, music trading will continue indefinitely without the pressure to go legit and make money for both the trade-enabler and the artists getting traded.

At any rate, I'm working on my own little contribution to online music (ranting aside)... I bought the domain name signalstation.com, and I've been looking into database backends. I want to create an MP3 review site, something like a cross between MeFi and Epinions where people can express their opinions about bands, albums, and tracks that have been legitimately released as MP3s. If anyone wants to give me a hand, I'm a designer and databases confuse me, so I'd love some advice ^_^ ... interested parties can write me: signal(at)wiremommy.com.
posted by wiremommy at 11:40 AM on August 1, 2000

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