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Napster - "Think Different" - Some Thoughts
Back in the day, in the year 2000, there was Napster. If you weren’t there, you missed out big time. You just logged in, typed in an artist, song, or album title and BAM! music was yours for the taking. Price? Zero pennies. Didn’t get much better than that. It was awesome. You had access to massive amounts of music. Music that perhaps interested you somewhat, but not enough to shell out the bucks for. But with Napster, you owned it as soon as you downloaded it. And you were even exposed to new music. You would come across artists accidentally, some you had heard of, some names you weren’t even sure how to pronounce, nevertheless you would download them. Take a chance. Hell, you had nothing to lose. Well, maybe some bandwidth and hard drive space, but you were willing to take the chance because there is nothing like good music. Let’s rephrase that, there is nothing like free good music. If it wasn’t for Napster you would never be aware that you are a closet Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band fan. You never would of gotten your hands on Ted Greene’s “Solo Guitar” album, which until 2004 was only available on vinyl. But because someone had converted it into mp3 and you found it on Napster, you now were the proud owner. There’s a lot to be said about Napster. You even kind of learned the meaning of peer-to-peer (P2P).
“Napster is awesome. I’m a poor college student and can’t afford to pay so much money for CDs”….complains the ‘poor’ college student as he sips his Starbucks coffee sporting his school’s logo on his new hoodie.
“The artists are rich, they don’t need more money. So, no, I don’t feel bad downloading their music without paying”, argues another. I see, it’s because they are rich that you don’t lose sleep at night. Cool!
“What’s so bad about it? It’s just like making a mix-tape for a friend”, yet another student smartly declares.
People naively compared the ability to swap music via Napster to making a mix-tape for someone. Or they’d say it’s not any different than copying a CD for a friend. Sure it is. Making a copy for someone does not equate making one million copies. And I’m being generous here. There were over 25 million users worldwide in February of 2001.
Some say that thanks to Napster they were exposed to new music that otherwise they might not have been. Get out? How about going through your buddy’s CD rack, by hand, and borrowing some CDs you’ve never listened to. What? You and your friends listen to the same exact music? Man, you're missing out, get some new friends.
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Then there is the argument for the independent artist. They would never get exposure if it weren’t for Napster. Seriously? If you’re an independent artist and you can’t spare $120 a year for web hosting, and another $9.99 a year to register a domain, and take the time to build a simple html site where you can direct people to download your music for free…then man, you don’t care about your music…so, why should we? It’s not that difficult to get your music out there. Life takes a little effort, buddy.
And as for the Metallicas and Dr. Dres of the world…just because someone is rich, it doesn’t make it right to steal from them.
Napster was for all intents and purposes a peer-to-peer network that facilitated the swapping of mp3s, free of charge. Yeah, I know, it wasn’t 100% P2P, but it did use a P2P structure for some tasks, as well as a client-server structure for others (e.g. searching).
And although P2P file sharing is not illegal in itself, using P2P for widespread acquisition of copyrighted material without payment to the rightful owners is a crime. In addition, it’s undemocratic to support a company that sets out to be illegal from the get-go.
In a report by CNN in 2000 we find clear evidence of illegal intent. “Quoting from Napster's business documents, industry lawyers said the company wanted to ‘usurp’ and ‘undermine’ the industry, and do business ‘unhindered by cumbersome copyright schemes.’”
“In its bid to ‘seize control of digital distribution,’ Napster ‘expressly designed a system to make available to millions of users unlimited copies of what Napster itself accurately labeled 'pirated music,' RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] said.” (1)
Clearly Napster was not just about finding a way to share music with your buddies.
And for the people who hate the rich-and-complaining-because-Napster-stole-our-revenue-record companies for bringing in large amounts of cash while providing for you the music you freakishly danced as a teenager without rhythm to, the music you mourned your first lost love to, the music you celebrated your big promotion to, you know, the music that IS the soundtrack of your life…yeah, those record companies should have sat back and let you steal their work. It clearly isn’t that important in your life, so why should their music and the revenue it brings in be important to the music industry?
Change is inevitable. The recording industry should have figured out a way to sell music online. Of course they didn’t…until they didn’t have a choice.
Sometimes it takes thinking outside the box.
Leave it to the company that brought you Lisa, the fist commercial personal computer with a graphical user interface (GUI) (that’s right, in other words a mouse). Turn to the company that defined personal digital assistants (PDAs) when it launched Newton way ahead of its time, the company that brought you QuickTake, one of the first digital cameras in the consumer market, the company that made storage on your pc a snap when they brought you the first disk drive. And for you environmentalists, the first company to entirely replace CRTs with LCDS.
Sometimes you have to “Think Different”.
Love your Apple…and while you do, listen to your iTunes.
© 2009 by me.