April 13, 2000, 4:35 p.m. PT
Heavy-metal band Metallica sued the Napster MP3-trading software company and a trio of universities today, charging that together they were responsible for massive violations of the band's copyrights.
Is this issue a simple matter of copyright violation, or is there something more profound happening here?
Napster is not software designed to violate copyright, but software which allows individual people to share files with each other, an extending the basic facilities of the Internet without the arbitrary distinction separating higher-powered servers from the users desktop. Attempting to shut down the Napster service is not going to achieve Metallica's goals but will instead alienate their previous fans who are interested in moving to a more modern music distribution system.
Metallica's lawyers claim is that "Napster has built a business based on large-scale piracy". This is about as out-of-touch with reality as previous claims that the Internet was purely a tool that facilitated copying of copyright restricted materials. The use of the word "piracy" itself is an invalid comparison since it suggests that illegal copying is ethically equivalent to attacking ships on the high seas, kidnapping and murdering the people on them.
Limiting the right to copy information via copyright is generally promoted as the only method to ensure that musicians get paid for their craft. In fact it is being used as a tool being used to centralize all aspects of human communication and remove basic freedoms of choice and by extension threatens freedom of speech. While Metallica might have been made rich from their music, many musicians are not able to make a living and it is partly because of this centralization of the entertainment industry.
When people are paying for the music of widely-promoted bands such as Metallica, this is money they would not have available to go towards other entertainment. The widely-promoted bands have the huge overhead of the promotion, meaning that a smaller percentage of your entertainment dollar makes it to the musician with this entertainment form over others. Services such as Napster provide valuable promotion for musicians for free, cutting out some of these expensive middle-men.
There is a real threat to Metallica's bottom line here, but it is NOT from not getting paid for music shared over the Internet. It is from the lowering of popularity they will receive as a direct result of people having more freedom-of-choice in how they get entertained as alternatives to the monopolizing music industry becomes more and more available to the population. Metallica is not protecting the ability of musicians to make a living at their craft, they are trying to impose one specific business model onto the entire music industry.
I for one am starting early, and as a protest against Metallica's promotion of yesterdays centralized music industry, I am getting rid of all the Metallica CD's. I will be trying to find a home for them with someone else who might otherwise purchase them, reducing their sales in a minor way. I was once a fan and had a number of their CD's, but now have no interest in listening to this band, nor supporting them financially in any way. This case is going to hurt the industry more than it will help as more people are being forced to think more about how the music they listen to gets to them. I know I will be moving my entertainment from these monopolists to independent artists and media.
Metallica Albums I previously owned:
- Master of Puppets
- The .98 C.D. Garage Days Re-Revisited
- ...And Justive for All
- MP3.com - this is where I listen to most of my music these days.
- IceCast - Open-Source MP3 Streaming. The various channels listed here and at ShoutCast are also of interest.
- Napster - I don't actually use Napster (I don't find their business model interesting), but politically support their right to provide the tools they do.
- OpenNap: Open Source Napster Server which also contains references to other clients.
- The Free Network Project Homepage, "I worry about my child and the Internet all the time, even though she's too young to have logged on yet. Here's what I worry about. I worry that 10 or 15 years from now, she will come to me and say 'Daddy, where were you when they took freedom of the press away from the Internet?' " -Mike Godwin
- The Free Music Philosophy extends this issue to the next level by questioning the restriction of any music sharing.
- EFF's Open Licenses, specifically the Open Audio Licence is for audio/music what the GPL is for Software.
- GNUtella is another distributed file sharing system, more like FreeNet than the more centralized Napster systems.
- My reply to "Napster hurts Free Software" article
- Courtney Love does the math - she does the math and comes to the same conclusions I have....except that the believes she agrees with Lars when in fact I suspect she strongly disagrees.
- TVT sues Napster - another monopolist recording industry player joins the list on dark-side of this debate. CBC seems to be doing a good job in covering this story and has many other story links at the bottom.
- CNet's "big picture"
- A simple search on Linuxtoday will come up with many articles.
- Creation Records founder defends Napster
- Napster Shut
Down July 27 - preliminary injunction granted againsts Napster. Will
this help the cause of Metallica? It will make it worse as when people
stop using Napster they will start to use more decentralized systems to
share their files : systems that cannot be shut down as there is no
centralized organization to use the courts to attack.
(Note: This injunction didn't actually happen in the final hour).
- Napster fans scour Net to keep on swapping
- O'Reilly Network: Gnutella and Freenet Represent True Technological Innovation