Idiot-Boy! Answer the damn question!

So, in two threads:

I’ve asked Idiot Boy this question (in different ways, I admit):

**Napster was started for free
Napster was bought out by folks with lotsa bucks
Napster is held up as a paragon of a ‘new’ way of distributing music that won’t cost anything.
Napster has offered to pay one BILLION dollars to get the record companies off their backs.
Napster is a for-profit firm.
Figuring that, when the start to charge a subscription fee, they lose 95% of their users, that will leave them with 2.5 million users.
I think I heard that the owners have already invested 250 million dollars in VC in the firm.
Assuming a three-year profitability scenario (which I consider reasonable given today climate for online firms) each of those Napster users will have to part with at least $400 (just to break even) to access the archives.

How then, as a for-profit firm, is Napster any different from Sony or EMI?**

And Idiot-Boy hasn’t answered either time.

This really cheeses me off. All I’m hearing is, “The revolution is coming! Long live Napster!” as if it’s some sort of fucking movement or something and not a for-profit corporation that is dedicated to recouping it’s investment.

So let’s hear it, eh? Out with it! If these quotes apply:



and finally…

EMI and Sony and all the others are in the music biz to make money. Napster is in the music biz to make money. Given those two facts…


I don’t want to sound like a nimrod here, but if everyone gets it for free, how do the artists make any money?

Your nimrod-ness is not called into question here, O mighty spooje, I believe IB says that artists don’t make money off their recordings right now because the evil RIAA (producers, agents, labels, et al) take all the money and pass on ‘a nickel per unit’ or some such (quote inexact, mea culpa, OK?). So called ‘TRUE’ artists make their money playing live shows and selling merchandise.

I think we need to keep “Napster the Company” separate from “Napster the Idea”. Napster the company is gonna fail, and fail hard. They are going to lose every penny invested in them. But, the idea of peer-to-peer file sharing is alive and well. No lawsuit can stop it unless the Industry starts suing individual fans.

It is true that most musicians don’t make much money from record sales. The way to make money is by touring. I think in the future most musicians will view recorded music as a promo for their live shows. Now, that does mean that studio-oriented artists are going to starve. It’s not a matter of TRUE artists vs posers, but simply a fact that 95% of the profits from record sales go back to the Industry and not the artists. Now, if you could figure out a way to get that 5% directly to the artists you could charge $1 per CD equivalant. I think lots of people would pay that…and they’d probably get lots more music than before…meaning that the profits for the artists could increase.

But I just don’t see how our current copyright setup can survive. Our copyright law presupposes a certain technological background. Change the background and the law doesn’t make sense any more. For instance, back in the Middle Ages books had to be copied by hand. Our current law would be an unenforceable disaster. Our current law is based on mass production of physical copies. Change that and our laws make no sense. The whole concept of “copy” starts to become meaningless in a networked world.

The purpose of copyright is for producers to get money, right? But I can legally borrow a CD from the library, listen to it 500 times, then return it. Yes, I never made a copy. But the artist got nothing. I listened to that thing for free, completely legally. Didn’t I screw the artist?

Now I can hear you all saying, “But you didn’t make a copy, so it was legal!” Yeah, so what? What’s so magic about copying? It’s just that’s what our current IP system is based on. But it’s crazy, it makes no sense. I understand what the law is, I understand why the law was created, but the law won’t work anymore.

And shutting down Napster the Company is a really poor move by the Record Companies. It’s like fixing an overflowing sink without paying attention to the burst dam outside.

You may now return to flaming Idiotboy.

But for all the talk of ‘new technology’ all you’ve done is increase the velocity of information. So called ‘peer to peer’ sharing is really only an extension (via new gear) of anyone in the 80s with a dual tape deck. The industry didn’t (seriously) attempt to combat that and I doubt they’d attempt to combat individual to individual work now. You’re right in that that’s certainly a hopeless case. However, I feel certain in my bones that they would attempt to acquire or destroy any further ‘centralization’ of file sharing a la Napster.

I think the vast majority of musicians now view records that way. I’d even bet it’s something like 99.999…% given that most musicians don’t have record deals. Even that one’s that do have deals don’t, obviously, see the lions share of the money generated by their CD releases. But at the same time, the musicians aren’t exposed (investment wise) to the same extent that a record label is. Example: A band gets signed, records a record, it tanks, the record label drops them. The band is, at that point, off the hook because (in the large majority of these cases) the record company doesn’t attempt to recoup it’s investment from the band. The record company has to eat that investment. The band, on the other hand, gets to go on its merry way.

Let’s examine the first sentence of that second paragraph there. The purpose of copyright is NOT to get money for the producers, its purpose is to guarantee control of a piece of intellectual property for the rights holder.

The holder of a copyright (whether the original artist or not) has the right to give it away, use it, destroy it, or milk it for every penny they can. The controlling party could squeeze every nickel until Jefferson screamed for mercy and they would be within their rights.

But it also allows them to control how their property is used. Would you, if your concept of ‘copyright laws are obsolete’ turns out to be true, support “insert-your-favorite-song-title-here” to be used to sell Toyotas without a payment (or even a request of permission) to “insert-your-favorite-artist-here”? If there’s no copyright laws then that could easily happen.

Now given my own somewhat populist leanings I’m the LAST person who would say that the law is an absolute. But the simple solution (in the USA) to a law being unjust is the ability to change that law. What, then, would you propose to change in the copyright laws that would continue to protect the rights of artists and rights holders in the modern age?

On the contrary, I think they took the only possible approach that was open to them. If you’re a corporation and you see someone engaged in large-scale violation of your rights as a business the only option you have is to land on them with both feet. Again, it’s not the small timers you go after, it’s the ones that facilitate large scale activities that are damaging to your interests.

Hey, thanks for permission. I haven’t really flamed anyone yet, I don’t think. But it’s nice to know I have the option.

How, exactly, would recording a Napster file for free, without the permission of the copyright holder, be any different from stealing a six pack of Pepsi™? Sure Pepsi is made by a mega-corp that pays the people who do the actual work fairly little. Stealing something simply because it costs too much or the "true artist doesn’t get enough of the proceeds seems pretty disengenuous to me.


Yes, any centralized system will be hit by a lawsuit, and the industry will almost certainly win. But there are decentralized systems right now where there is no company to sue. Somebody just put together the software and released it for free, no central servers, no offices to close. People aren’t using these programs today because Napster is still much easier to use. But when Napster is shut down tomorrow or the next day everyone starts using the new services. I imagine that most of the music available won’t be public domain, so industry lawyers could look at them and record who has pirated music…but they’d have to sue each person individually.

This is different from copying tapes, since with tapes you had to find someone who had a copy, borrow a copy, and spend the time to make the tape. With Napster you just click and download. The ease of use is so much greater that it really is not comparable. You just say, “I wanna hear XXX”, type in a few keywords, press OK, and 5 minutes later you’re listening to XXX. And then YOUR “copy” of XXX become available for anyone else who wants a copy.

Sure, the labels often lose money on bands. But the cost of recording music has dropped like a rock, and will continue to drop. Effectively, anyone who can afford a computer can afford to record an album.

Well, let’s be even more specific. The purpose is not to make money for the producers, or even to let the producers have control. The REAL purpose is to encourage innovation and production. It turns out that the best way to do that is to allow the producers to benefit from their work. We grant the copyright, not because we think creators must control their creation but because we want more creations. And if creators couldn’t benefit they’d stop bothering to create.

The new technological facts mean that creators CANNOT control how their Intellectual Property is used. It is (or will be in a few years) impossible. We can talk about how they should have the right to control it, but we cannot enforce that control. I mean, I have trees on my property, and those trees produce oxygen. I could rant and rave about how that oxygen is my property and I have the right to control what happens to that oxygen…but even if the law agreed with me I would be unable to enforce that control.

The point I’m trying to make is that our current copyright laws are not based on abstractions, they are based on reality. It is impossible to control who listens to a record, or who reads a book, but it is possible to control who can make a copy of the record or the book. Or rather, it was possible. Our laws used to be a workable compromise, not perfect, but they worked. They still work, to a degree…but the seams are showing. In a few years the seams will burst.

I’m not saying this is a utopia of free information and we should celebrate. But we should face reality. The concept of a “copy” of a digital recording is obsolete. There really is no such thing. It costs nothing to copy a song onto my hard drive, once I’ve paid the up-front costs of the computer and the internet connection.

Trying to control “copying” is like trying to control the production of oxygen. You might be able to do it, but you’d end up destroying what you were trying to preserve. You can shut down website after website, but what happens when people can share files without a website? The worst laws are those that cannot be enforced. Our current copyright laws can be enforced, but just barely. But what happens next?

I don’t really have a solution to the puzzle of how artists and writers will be able to support themselves in the future. Musicians will have live shows, but what about writers? Beats me. I will note that nobody here on SDMB gets paid to write…perhaps the days of the professional author are over, I don’t know. I’d be sad if that happened, but what can we do? Enforcing the current system won’t work, the laws are unenforceable, or will be very soon.

Musicians actually have the least to fear, since they don’t really make much money from record sales, and they can give away recordings as promotions for live performances, or charge a few cents a “copy”. But even if we decide that it should still be illegal to “copy” music it won’t preserve our current system, it won’t help to get money or control to artists. The technology makes it trivially easy to bypass any imagined control.

Well, you may argue that artists won’t have the same incentive to create. Well, that may be, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We will eventually have to change our expectations about what a work of art is and how artists should benefit. For instance, a renaissance painter didn’t expect to get paid every time someone looked at his painting…he got paid once, or was on stipend, or some such. Anyone could legally make a copy of his painting, but only by actually doing the exact same thing he did, which is to paint a painting.

Then we learned we could copy paintings or music by easier means, and produce and distrubute the copies industrially. We decided to grant the artists certain rights over these copies, in order to encourage the proliferation of creativity. But now we no longer need to produce and distrute physical copies of works of art any more. In fact, the whole concept of “copy” breaks down, when it doesn’t matter where the data is stored. It could be on my hard drive, my wife’s hard drive, or on a server in Madagascar. There could be only one copy saved, or millions of instances, it really makes no difference if anyone can access the file any time they wish from anywhere on the planet.

Right now I can listen to my friend’s CD, I just can’t copy it. But if he can essentially lend me the CD and keep it for himself, while still not technically making a copy, our laws cannot cope.

There’s a big difference- while you were listening to it 500 times, no one else could, because you had the original. If you decided to continually check out the CD, effectively making it yours, no one else can listen to it. Anyone else who wants to hear the CD must (theoretically) go out and buy a copy, or pester the library to buy another copy, since the first one is always checked out. In either case, two users = two CDs sold. If you copied it, then returned it, now two people can listen to the CD at once, since there are now two physical discs (or whatever).


Yeah? But two people DID listen to the CD at once, me and my wife.

Let’s look at it another way. We have two machines networked. I have a legal mp3 on my hard drive. My wife can play it on her system any time she wants through the network. But, if she copied it to her hard drive she would be violating copyright. But this makes no sense!

I could (if I knew how) make a script that made 5 million copies of an mp3 on my hard drive, erasing old ones when it runs out of room. Did I break the law 5 million times? Or did I just demonstrate that the concept of “copy” has very little relevance in an age of digital networks?

Or my wife could copy the file 5 million times and then erase all the copies. Did she do something 5 million times worse than if she had only made one copy?

Number of copies and where the copies are located is irrelevant. What is relevant is who has access to the files, it doesn’t matter how many backups there are. Copyright law was a crude form of access control that kind of worked most of the time. But fetishizing the “copy” aspect makes no sense any more, since the whole point of restricting copying was restricting access.

Since you can’t prevent copying, you have to have some other method of access restriction. Cryptography, maybe. But, once someone decrypts the file they can distribute the open version of it. Encryption will work for time-sensitive broadcasts…no one is going to decrypt last weeks sports broadcasts and make them available…or at least no one will care if they do. Music is different though.

I just don’t see any technical way to restrict access and still allow broad distribution. Copyright USED to be able to do that, but doesn’t anymore. If you can think of one, let me know.

Any knew intellectual property laws will have to be written so that they are a better deal for the consumers than no IP laws. Better deal in a long-term, enlightened self-interest sense. If the laws can’t prevent copying ANYWAY, all they do is stifle innovation. The laws are worse than useless if they cannot be enforced.

So, Lemur, what you’re basically saying is “We can’t stop them from copying, so we might as well try”?

But you listened to ONE CD.

How does it make no sense? You’re technically creating an illegal copy. Sure, it’s really anal-retentive, and no DA in his right mind would bother trying to prosecute you for it, but under the strict letter of the law, it’s illegal.

(Note: I’m not condemning anyone for this behavior)


Better’n you have demonstrated that. But it’s still illegal.

This is starting to get ridiculous.

True. What’s relevant is that a person not take something that isn’t theirs. Music is someone’s property. By making copies and mass-distributing it, you’re violating their property rights.

I don’t see how people have a hard time admitting “taking something that ain’t yours = stealing”. DL-ing illegal Mp3’s is the same as Warez. Heck, you used to have to go to Warez sites to find Mp3’s, for Pete’s sake.

Whiny Napster Babies… you make me sick!! You don’t remember the old days… the Golden Age of the Mp3! Having to scour dozens of sites, hunting for that elusive copy of “Particle Man” or “Zoot Suit Riot”! Now you’ve just got some shmoes who do YOUR work for you! Lazy bums…

Did anyone else notice that Metallica was the only band outraged by Napster? The Music Industry had to FIND someone who was pissed about this, most of them were just happy to be getting the exposure. This isn’t a legal battle being fought over artistic rights. It’s a legal battle being fought over money, with money, and by money.

It seems to me that most musicians are much more interested in fame than they are in money. MP3s just mean that bands don’t need record companies anymore. And that’s what’s really scaring the record companies.

There are alternatives for musicians wanting exposure over money. MP3.COM is a great site for finding new music, and a great place to get exposure - you can put your music up there where everybody with a web browser can download it, where it can be categorized so people into your genre are more likely to see it, you can keep track of how many people have downloaded it, and you can even make a bit of money. Far superior than Napster, which requires downloading special software, does not tell you how many people have downloaded your song, and doesn’t pay you for downloads.

If the real reason behind much of the music industry being against Napster was that it was competing with record companies as a way for artists to get exposure, why aren’t they going after MP3.COM, which seems so superior? Because MP3.COM isn’t stealing music, the only music available for download there has been made available by the artist. The record industry does not care about unsigned artists getting exposure - any artist that gets popular enough through the Internet is going to want to produce a record eventually, and they’ll make their money. The record industry DOES care about people getting their product for free.

But it’s not their product.

And the reason people go throught record companies is because they have all the venues cornered. Except for the internet.

Besides, you don’t need record companies to make money off fame. It’s very rare that a famous person misses a meal.

I sure didn’t notice it, for the very specific reason that it isn’t true.

Concerts and merchandising? Not sure what the percentages are, but they’d still make SOME money even if nobody bought albums anymore.

Please note that I haven’t stated an opinion on Napster or free music.

I’ve always thought that bands toured to support the records. And particularly for arena acts, where elaborate shows have lost money.

Of course, I could be wrong…it’s happened before…once or twice…

Let me ask this. Anyone know of a band that has become successful through Napster-type sharing? Without a record companie’s support? Or is it too soon to tell?

Noted; and neither am I, but…

I’d point out, in the gentlest possible way I can (I have no beef with any views on here, least of all yours) that there are some bands, artists etc who don’t like touring and all it entails (so-called ‘studio bands’). They’re not common, but they exist.

And so the debate continues…

Sheesh! A guy can’t take an extended weekend without missing a debated aimed right at him!


So, did he answer your FUCKING question for me, Mr. Chance?

I never said I support what Napster is turning into. I support what Napster was. Before the RIAA “noticed”. Now that the RIAA has their hands all over it, sure it’s gonna turn into EMI and Sony. You won’t see a difference now.

I agree with ya there, Mr. Chance. The main purpose (as WAY outdated as it is) is to protect the artist.

The holder of a copyright (whether the original artist or not) has the right to give it away, use it, destroy it, or milk it for every penny they can. The controlling party could squeeze every nickel until Jefferson screamed for mercy and they would be within their rights.[/qoute]

However, this is NOT the original purpose of the law. This is only an added benefit that money-grubbing assholes who end up being “Record Execs” were lucky enough to get away with. It’s the abuse of this law that is turning the industry inside out.

No, dummy! He’s not saying do away with all copyright laws. He saying “Look dummies! Open your fucking eyes! It’s no longer 1980! Make some fucking changes! You fucking dummies!” I totally agree that the current “copyright” and “fair use” laws are full of shit, but I never said “let’s get rid of the laws that can protect me and my fellow artists!” I’m not as stupid as my nickname states, thankyouverymuch. Dummy. I’m done with you for now.

Abe Babe

How, exactly, would recording a Napster file for free, without the permission of the copyright holder, be any different from stealing a six pack of Pepsi™?


Ummm…because with Napster you don’t need to leave the house, walk into a store, grap the Pepsi, and run.

Plus, there’s a buttload of risk involved with the physical stealing of Pepsi. With the digital “sharing” of music, there’s strength in numbers.


I know a few groups like this. And it’s really sad, I think. This is personal opinion, and flame me all you want, but making music only to record, and not to perform, is like going to a sports arena, to watch the game on a TV. It’s like buying a Porsche, only to drive it to church on Sunday. It’s like going to a fancy restaurant to order a piece of toast.

I find 99% of my enjoyment in the entire experience of being in a semi-successful band, is the performance. I couldn’t imagine writing music to only produce the “manufactured, all-too-perfect-sounding, could-almost-be-faked-if-you-didn’t-know-any-better” music rather than the unpredicabile excitement and true talent required to perform live.

Some of the “studio bands” make some great music. And it’s great to sit and listen to, but if I can’t watch them make the music…if I can’t experience their talent, it just doesn’t seem real to me.

And these are the artists who will be devistated by the “free internet sharing” of music.

And as I’ve said before…whether you like this new spin on technology or not, it’s happening and it’s not gonna be stopped. The public have had their taste of freedom, and they’re not gonna give up very easily.

Agreed. I was answering a post in which the thrust seemed to be <don’t worry, these guys will make their money touring/merchandising>; that’s true in the vast majority of cases, and I agree too that I’d rather see a band live, but it would be disengenuous of us to say that that is everyone’s experience.