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[12 February 2001]
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Napster Appeals Court Decision - "What People Are Missing"

[McClure & Trowbridge Publishing; 02/12/01]
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Napster Inc. must halt the sharing of copyrighted recordings by millions of music lovers who swap songs through its free Internet-based service, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

In a ruling that Napster officials said could force the file-swapping clearinghouse to shut down, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Napster must lock out those users who exchange copyrighted songs without permission.

The digital music technology Napster made popular is here to stay either way. The recording industry appears stymied by the notion of funneling music to consumers via the Internet for a price while freely available computer applications allow even the computer novice to do it for free.

Napster can stay in business until U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel retools her injunction, which the appellate court called overly broad. In fact, even after the panel's decision, thousands of Napster users were still trading music files on just one of the company's more than 100 servers.

Most people are still failing to compare the Napster court issues to the cassette duplication battles of the 1970's when RIAA feared loss of revenue by private copying and sharing of music in cassette format.

The digital format today is in a similar position to cassettes two and three decades ago; mp3 and CD (burning) are formats for music storage and sharing widely available to individuals. The solution with cassettes was to demand tariff from cassette recorder manufacturers on sales; these monies are distributed to licensing agencies and RIAA, offsetting copy income losses.

Today's battles over mp3 copying are analogous in every respect, except scope. Then it was cassette tape and recorders; now it's mp3 format and CD burners. The solution is tariffs on mp3 player manufacturers and tariffs on CD and CD burner manufacturers.

What People Are Missing:

1.) We can't stop people from sharing sound and video files, any more than we could stop people from cassette taping a favorite record and giving it to a friend twenty five years ago. (It's not a violation of U.S.Copyright Law to make a personal copy of a copyrighted work.) A dozen mp3 and MPEG share sites pop up for every one restricted or shut down. (Gnutella, Scour, Freenet, ...)

2.) Record sales are up since the advent of Napster, Scour, and free online file sharing networks.

3.) Since record sales are up and airplay is consistent, songwriters and publishers and artists and record labels still make as much or more money than without file sharing. In fact, now Internet webcast stations are paying royalties to the PROs (Performing Rights Organizations, like BMI or ASCAP, who collect airplay and performance royalties and distribute them to writers and publishers) so writers and publishers are actually making more money than before.

4.) People will not pay for what they can get free.

5.) People will pay a reasonable subscription price for on-demand immediate movies and music. They will not pay a subscription fee for movies and music three months or six months after release in theatres and stores.

6.) What is necessary is some creative thinking to devise new ways of making money in the evolving landscape of the Internet, technology, and the entertainment industry. Business has always been creative (look at Luis Rukeyser) - what's wrong with a little now?

7.) The fundamentally unfair and inequitable policies of the RIAA, PRO's, HFA, and MPAA continue. These inequities in distribution and collection of royalties are not at issue in the current Napster court cases.

8.) THE REAL issue is that RIAA, PRO's, HFA, and MPAA are grabbing huge chunks of the Internet earnings landscape and saying "Try to take it back away from us." Their tactic is to grab everything first, then defend it. They are acting out of fear in the face of a revolutionary technology. They are not acting out of right or good will.


Other links:

ZDnet News
Courtney Love's "Digital Hollywood" Speech
Show Your Support - Trowbridge Songwriter Earnings & Internet Music
Show Your Support - Napster

[McClure & Trowbridge Publishing; 02/12/01]

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