For the love of music

For the love of music

Napster, Napster, Napster! The Morning Show and Good Morning America, Dateline and 60 Minutes, newsstands like TIME and Newsweek, dailies like the Washington Post and USA Today, small-town or college newspapers, the evening eyewitness news … every media outlet is now keeping you up to date with the Napster vs. RIAA battle. But why? Does the end of Napster really mean the end of MP3 file sharing? Insert your version of “Whatever!” here.

Record labels and artists who don’t already understand this, need to realize that MP3 swapping needs to be embraced, not attacked in the courts. It’s a waste of money in lawyers fees that will force lower profits in the future and higher CD prices to cover all the money they wasted. Alright, there, I’ve said it once again, and so have millions of people in various other online forums. Moving on…

Sure, pay MP3 swapping services can work if they offer the sheer number of songs that communities like Napster do. Which, by the way, is only possible due to Napster’s ease of use and the fact that it has become a household name thanks to the news (read above). The RIAA created Napster’s popularity. Ironic, eh?

But as soon as Napster falls, thirty other, easier-to-use file swapping programs/services pop up. Look at Aimster, another service becoming a household name thanks to the popularity of RIAA’s attack on Napster. Hell, FoxNews contacted little old me for my opinion on Aimster.

Aimster is even more user-friendly and “dangerous” than Napster because of the simple fact that it is a plug-in for AOL’s instant messaging service (another household name service from an even more popularly known tech empire), which supposedly has 60 million users, compared to Napster’s current 20 to 30 million users. Sure, you theoretically can only trade between buddies on your list, but we all know how easy it is to make “buddies” online with otherwise complete strangers.

And as the concept of Freenet is evolved, more understood, and then popularly embraced, that act of file sharing of any type of file (movie, music, software, etc.) will continue to grow in popularity. The percentage of growth itself will be astronomical. Sure, Freenet is not user-friendly to many Internet surfers who wouldn’t know a Windows .dll file from a Word .doc, but as each generation of computer user becomes more and more technically able, new communities like Freenet will pop up every day and be used by more and more people how could care less about ease-of-use or flashy interfaces.

And let’s remind executives that as broadband Internet access becomes more available, cheaper, reliable, and popular, even needed by Internet hungry masses, the avenues for the swapping of all types of files will even further increase. Faster Internet access equals more surfing equals more online “friends” equals more downloading equals more private FTP sites equals … well you get the idea.

So in fact, Napster is being singled out for only three reasons: 1) sheer ignorance in thinking that removing Napster will end the mass swapping of copyright protected music, thereby increasing CD sales even further; 2) removing the most publicly known music swapping service will allow the record companies and “legal” services to move in with their own file swapping communities with some amount of success (how ever that will be measured); and 3) Napster is the daddy program/service that started the mass downloading scene, and now removing Napster through legal precedent will pave the way for lawsuits against new services and eventually threats against the individual downloader.

But wait. The RIAA could never go after the individual downloader. Half truth. The RIAA already made an example of a college student last year. (What ever happened in that case, anyway?) So, what’s stopping the RIAA from making examples out of other random MP3 renegades? Nothing really. But examples would be the extent of it. The example I have used before is that if a squad of uniformed police showed up at the door and said they were arresting the 13-year-old of the family for music downloading, the PR the police and the RIAA would have to deal with would be debilitating. Public outcry would be deafening. And like the courts could handle 20 million (or more) new trials, all just for downloading a damn file or two.

In the end, it is useless to bother keeping up with Napster news. Instead keep up on news about new services. (That’s what websites like are for, right?) Whether Napster disappears or not, the music swapping world will not be hurt very badly. “But Napster has the largest community with the most songs!” Yeah, but many of the new free services, and even websites, are offering searching across file swapping services. So in essence, an even larger collection of downloads can be created; a world of music built on top of several nation-state collectives of music.