Kiss Your Assets Goodbye!
May 25, 2017
The controversy over Napster and other free music sharing systems is rocking the web. If your company deals with any sort of digital information, such as music, video, or data, you should follow this conflict closely, because how it is resolved may dramatically affect the future of your business. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is suing Napster, a site that allows users to freely share music files, claiming that Napster infringes on the rights of the recording industry. It has enlisted heavy metal rocker Lars Ulrich, country music sweethearts The Dixie Chicks, and rap CEO Sean “Puffy” Combs as spokespeople.
Meanwhile, more than 20 million Internet users are actively involved in sharing free mp3 music files. Getting free music over the Internet is seen by many as just a high-tech version of getting music over the radio. The conflict is rapidly coming to a head. The U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel has issued an injunction against Napster, calling the site “a monster”. The injunction may effectively shut the site down. Another free music site, CuteMX, has shut its service down pending the results of this lawsuit. Hank Barry, the CEO of Napster, vows to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.
This case could prove to be a pivotal case in the struggle between the creators of new Internet technologies and copyright owners. The decision in this case could affect 20 million Napster users. Because the conflict is a struggle between the traditional rights of copyright owners and the latest Internet technologies, the effects of this ruling could affect all Internet users.
Free File Sharing is the New Reality
It would be hard to make an effective argument that Napster doesn’t violate the traditional rights of copyright owners. What Napster has done is become the Yahoo of bootlegging. The judge in this case is right, Napster is a business based on helping people bootleg music.
But the point is moot. There is no way to stop the sharing of mp3’s because there are so many new file sharing technologies and so many people actively using them. The RIAA can win the battle but not the war.
The RIAA is doing the only thing it can do, if it wants to fight against this. Like Microsoft in its anti-trust case, the RIAA is using the legal system to delay the inevitable so that it can figure out better ways of retaining control of its
business. To be successful in the long run, though, the RIAA members must figure out how to use the Internet to their advantage.
Fighting Won’t Work
There is only one way for the music industry to deal with this situation: The RIAA must learn how to sail against the wind. The traditional music industry can only survive this conflict by learning how to harness the power of these new Internet technologies and the people using them.
The RIAA members must adapt their ways to the reality of the interchange of information over the Internet.
- They can do this by using the Internet as a high-speed, low-cost method of generating interest in their product. (ie., The Blair Witch Project)
- The music companies can tap into the increased distribution and attention the Internet creates by making more interesting physical products, such as cd’s with more exciting design, packaging, lyric sheets, and photos.
- The music industry can translate the success of a free product into a desire for collectible commercial items by making each cd part of a set, or by creating limited editions in a variety of formats. (ie. Pokemon, Beanie Babies)
- RIAA members can create tools, software and media for distributing free music and playing it. This could include mp3 software, mp3 players, and digital music hardware.
The music industry is going to find that, even though they are technically right in their fight to shut down Napster, their success depends on turning this revolution into their own cause.
This Conflict Affects Everyone
The free music revolution is the beginning of the conflicts that Internet technologies will create over copyright ownership. The same types of technologies that are allowing the free exchange of music over the Internet can be used to allow movies, software and ultimately any type of digital information to be copied. This trend is irreversible, massive, and any company that deals with copyrighted information will have to deal with it.