Thursday, September 05, 2002

Napster is Dead. Long Live Napster! Napster's officially closing up shop, liquidating its remaining assets. However, as this piece points out, it spawned a number of second-generation file-swapping protocols, such as Morpheus, that are decentralized and harder to shut down. It's temping (and I did give in to that temptation in the past) to be able to download songs for free, especially if there's negliable risk of being caught. However, the swapping works a bit like shareware-record sales to swappers are higher than for non-swappers. I'm reminded of the Obi-Wan Kenobi line: "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine." The record industry could have domesticated Napster into a fee-based file-swapping system that a lot of law-respecting users would have paid for. Instead, they destroyed it, and saw the swapping universe spin out of their control. Restrictions on peer-to-peer file-swapping technologies or the intrusive Big Brother dreams of coporate snooping on personal hard drives won't fly in the US. Eventually, we'll see some innovation in the music industry, as computer technology will allow artists to sell music to listeners with less intermediary cost than today. Record companies might make money by opening up their out-of-print stock to fee-based downloading. However, that will take a paradigm shift in the industry, and those don't happen overnight.

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