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Question time: Napster

Ubiquity, Volume 2000 Issue July, July 1 - July 31, 2000 | BY John Gehl 


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Question Time: Napster

Napster is much in the news (and the courts) in recent weeks. What should people think of the issues involved?

Don't Resist, Reinvent!

History is replete with new technologies rendering existing business models obsolete. Invariably, after a major but losing battle by the existing players, the new technology prevailed, and the business model changed to accommodate it -- or the business ceased to exist. Often, the change was accompanied by major economic dislocations, even to the point of rendering whole categories of workers unemployable simply because their skills were no longer of value. But the technology still prevailed. Trying to stop change with court cases has rarely worked. The Inquisition tried it, but Eppur si muove. "And yet it moves!" The music industry's attempts to shut down music sharing -- which we can all agree is a violation of copyright -- is doomed to failure, simply because it is unenforceable. True, they might be able to shut down Napster, but Gnutella, a "general purpose" host-free file sharing mechanism, works just fine. The time spent on resisting this technology is wasted. They had better start looking for a different business model, because they are going to need one.

-- Gary Marquart

Napster is a strange bridge

Quite simply, music is the life-blood of any society. Napster is a strange bridge from the past into the future. Musicians deserve compensation for their creations and Napster could wrest monetary control away from record companies in the future. Meanwhile, in the present, one can only hope that Napsters will buy their favorite group's music after sampling online. My preference would be a model similar to shareware. This model, of course, requires a society with high moral standards. Metallica will get none of my money!

-- Gerald Brant

Statistics speak for themselves

It's notable that the music industry's own statistics show music sales are up about 8 percent nationally in the last year, in spite of the popularity of Napster, or because of it.

-- Mike Barnes

Napster resurrected

Napster in less than a month has gone from having its obituary written to having the support (sort of) of the US Senate! . . . I think an even bigger issue than IP for Napster is that the people providing MP3 files could be considered by their ISP to be operating a server which is against the terms and conditions of most individuals' ISP agreements. I've only seen one article that mentioned this point. In addition, I certainly wouldn't want to operate my personal computer as a server.

-- Bob Ellis

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