Napster Won

Contrary to the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) view and what they hailed as an end to “electronic shoplifting” on the internet, Napster will not die. Perhaps the Napster as we know it will be gone but the freedom of choice for internet users for free access to shared music will continue. That may be the most important result of the recent court decision. The world’s biggest record labels — including Vivendi Universal, Sony Music, Warner Music, and EMI Group applauded the ruling, their eyes bulging, no doubt, at the prospects of hard cash filtering their way. But the Music Consortium is their own worst enemy. They were slow in seeing the advantages of offering music on the internet that was easy to access.

Here is what, Hilary Rosen, president and chief executive of the RIAA stated: “It’s time for Napster to stand down and build business the old-fashioned way: they must seek permission from the copyright holders first. It’s time for the marketplace to begin to work properly,” Rosen, however, forgets that this is America and American ingenuity and the song-swapping technology will prevail. Technology is such that development of variations by programmers of the file sharing procedure will not be easy for the recording industry to stop.

Napster was the first so-called “killer application” to take advantage of a networking structure known as peer-to-peer, which enables computers to both receive and serve files. In 10 minutes, a home computer connected to the Internet can make MP3 files – digital copies of songs – available to anyone with a similar setup. Other programs made it possible to trade more than just songs. Napster, however, is not pure peer-to-peer. It relies on a central index server, which acts as a traffic cop, directing requests for songs to other users’ hard drives. That central server was Napster’s downfall.

Alternative file-sharing software has staying power because its decentralized technology empowers anyone with a computer to make songs available to millions of users. The profusion of alternatives underscores how difficult it will be for record labels and artists to eradicate music piracy.

I was late into the Napster phenomenon and will sorely miss Napster’s ease of searching and downloading shared music from fellow surfers. I have no difficulty with thumbing my nose at the RIAA and in particular Metallica and Dr. Dre. Although I have not the slightest interest in these latter two, I purposely downloaded a song of each of them when I heard that they had threatened to prosecute individuals. Don’t ask me which songs. I don’t know and care less. It was my exercise in giving Metallica and Dr. Dre as well as the RIAA my middle finger salute.

See also these related sites:
Recording Industry Association of America
Napster, we hardly knew ye

Ralph J. Luciani

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