Napster, again

Let’s say that tomorrow I figure out how to manufacture cars for free. All I need is an original, and I send it through a machine I’ve invented and, presto, I have a duplicate. Of course the duplicate isn’t quite as good as the original, so when I send my Lamborghini through, its clone only has 400 torques and a top speed of 150 MPH.

Would my invention be illegal?

Obviously, I’m making an analogy to the recording industry and digital compression. The way I see it is that the recording industry is obsolete, because a technical innovation has superseded them. Who cares if they go out of business? I mean not many people are crying when Wal-Mart comes to town and stomps all the local competition out of business. It’s the nature of competition, right? And the consumer wins.

Yeah, a few top artists will also lose out, but so what? There’s always the local live music scene. Or, if you think you’re really that good, you could sell your first CD for $1 million, and I’m sure someone will buy it. If some people can pay millions for paintings why can’t a few rich pay similar prices for original tracks of music? The rest of us can live with prints.

Firstly…please, not another Napster thread!

Secondly…yes, your invention would be illegal. Did you design or manufacture the original? No? Then how do you have the right to copy it?

Thirdly, the record industry has not been superseded. WHy on earth would you think that? Napster is a distribution technology; I don’t believe it’s revolutionised, for example, the production of music. Do you?

I’m sure other posters will expand on these flaws.

Hey zero,

Actually, a LOT of people decry WalMart moving into the neighborhood. So much so that many local communities have passed laws that are WalMart unfriendly, refused their zoning variance requests, etc…

But that’s a different story.

The analogies don’t quite wash. If biologists take your DNA and produce your clone who can lay legal claim to ownership of the result? You or the guy that made the copy?

Neither you say? The clone is it’s own entity with all the rights and privileges of any other human being?
A similar thing is in play with Napster. There are numerous patents and copyrights involved. Where the RIAA is staking their claim is on the sounds that you’re hearing, not the media upon which it’s delivered.

Their problem doesn’t really lie with today. There is no detectable falloff in sales due to Napster. (In fact sales may actually be up slightly.) This is due largely to the limited media for playing MP3s. What the RIAA is trying to do is stop the copying and distribution of their protected “thing” (the music) before players supporting MP3 (or other format) become sufficiently widespread to where it is no longer necessary to buy the music on approved media.

The RIAA has a good argument that if your Sony DiscMan, Kenwood CD player, etc supported MP3 today that the motivation to BUY the music would be greatly diminished.

When someone puts up the large sums of money necessary to develop the playing hardware/firmware that goes into every player THEN the RIAA can really worry.

Sorry. I wasn’t specific. The title references Napster because that seems to be a name everyone recognizes. But, really I’m talking about digital compression.

And, I don’t see how it could be illegal to reproduce something. I mean you don’t pay royalties on an idea that is a piggyback of another person’s idea, do you?

In our economy you can’t just squeeze the sponge for every drop. You have to constantly innovate. Why should the recording industry be any different?

The recording industry WILL have to innovate. They have no doubt already invested many man-hours and considerable money trying to establish their future niche in music distribution.

The Mona Lisa is a work of art that is is appreciated visually. You can take pictures of it, you can commission other artists to copy it, you can stamp out prints of it, but you can never have the Mona Lisa.

Music, as art, has many similarities but clearly it also has its differences.

One of the differences is that enjoyment of it is “on demand”. If you want to hear the latest Faith Hill song you just hit the PLAY button. You want to hear SteppenWolf’s “Pusher Man” you change CDs, tapes, etc and hit the PLAY button. Same holds true for Glen Miller or any other artist.

But what you’re hearing is the world’s best attempt to let you hear exactly what the musician intended. That is, the RIAA produced “something” and allow you to enjoy it via a number of popularly supported media.

The MP3 craze comes along (and it’s got as many good things about it as it has bad) and people want this music for free. Compressing the music so that it fits better on your hard drive is a strong argument that something has been stolen.

If I steal a red Viper from the car lot and paint it white have I not substantially changed it so that it should now be mine? Of course not.

The same holds true (or should hold true) of converting music to MP3 format. You’ve taken a commercially available product (arguably art) and modified it for your own use. And in the case of MP3 the uses are distribution and ownership.

Reproduction per se has never been the issue. There are “fair use” laws for making photocopies, for instance. The real question has always been, who has a right to profit and who does not? If you can either profit from your reproduction, or prevent someone else from profiting off the original work, then you’ve got an issue.

Follow the bouncing dollar.

…the difference being, of course, that the owner of the red Viper does not still have her car once you have stolen it, and is therefore incapable of selling it to others who might wish to buy it.

The owner of the music’s copyright no longer has the opportunity to sell the song to whomever has downloaded it, correct?

People can argue as strenuously as they like that they’re only downloading music they would not otherwise have purchased (or that they are only “sampling” as a pre-cursor to purchasing the CD). But I find this as persuasive as the folks I know who have pirated software and have, literally, hundreds of “free” games and applications at their disposal. Which is to say, I don’t know for sure if they’re kidding themselves, but I know their opinion is damn convenient for them.

So what? Am I understanding this corectly? Are you actually arguing that we are in fact infringing on a legitimate property right, but we’re entitled. Why? On what basis do you conclude that you have the right to determine that an owner is already too rich, or that theft is too convenient. What is the specific reason that leads you to state that you can take whatever you want? Because the owner isn’t innovative enough to prevent you?

rather than look at what is right or wrong vis a vis current copyright laws, lets look at the real world.

the music companies charge ridiculous prices for their music. cd’s and cassettes have similar production costs, yet cd’s cost more. they are charging what the market will bear, right?? people have been willing to pay more for cd’s than for cassettes up till now.

but the world is changing, people are not always willing to pay $15 or more for a cd. and there is an alternative at the moment. ie, free.

the music companies can kick and scream all they want. digital file sharing is not going to disappear no matter how many court cases they win. they are going to have to face that reality if they want to survive. they need to embrace new technology and figure out how to make money using it. they may not make as much money per sale, but if prices drop dramatically, they may still gross more. or not.

::sigh:: This again…

Still doesn’t make it right to steal music.

And illegal alternative, yes.

And they’re wrong for wanting to protect their property?

Look, go and use your Napster. I, for one, don’t condemn you. Just don’t spout this bullshit about how “the record companies screw us, so it’s okay for us to screw them”.

Anyway, back to the OP…

Except that copyright laws give exclusive right to the holder of the copyright to reproduce something. When you buy a product, you only pay for the benefits of using a legal reproduction. It’s that simple.

I agree 100%. However, what innovations can stop their losses from Napster use? Aside from cancelling Internet access (among shouts of “censorship!”), none. Should they use Mp3’s to their advantage? Yes. Perhaps selling Smartmedia cards with hard-burned Mp3’s on them? Or maybe developing some standardized Mp3 media? Although I dislike Mp3 players… Minidisc is much preferred on my part.

The holder of the copyright has the right to profit, and everyone else doesn’t.

Anyway, I apologize if I sound condescending. I just don’t think it’s necessary for people to try to justify their actions. Is a lot of the music floating around out their illegal? Well, yeah. Will you destroy the entire economy and cause the sun to go supernova by downloading the music? Hell no. So why do you need to try to justify your actions? That’s like trying to justify driving 5 MPH above the speed limit.

As a Canadian, I pay an embedded fee on every blank CD, tape, etc. that I buy that goes to subsidize the record industry for all the piracy that I may do. Based on the fact that I am now paying a fee for this, I conclude that I am legally entitled to download as much fruzzing music as I want and burn it onto CDs as I have already paid for the priviledge of doing so.

Or shutting down Napster, of course. But I submit that you (and the recording industry) are asking the wrong question. You should be asking how the recording industry can profit in spite of their losses from Napster use. Let’s face it, people want to download music on the Internet and they’re going to do it regardless of whether or not it’s legal. In the long term, people will always have the option of downloading music for free one way or another. The recording industry needs to come to terms with this fact, and then offer their music online for a modest price and place trust in their consumers to purchase it legitimately. They also need to take a cue from the software industry, trust their users to not copy the music once they’ve got it, and forget about all the encryption and protection schemes they’re dreaming up. At a fundamental level, they are a PITA, restrict fair use, and can’t prevent a determined person from copying the music anyway. It’s all about offering your products at a price (and in a form) the market will bear.

Actually, Lazarus, you may have a point…

Here’s something to think about: Grocery stores. Supposedly, they accept a $2 billion (roughly) loss each year from shoplifting. They realize and accept the fact that, yes, not everyone’s going to be above the temptation to slip a candy bar or a can of tuna into their pocket. Do they take as many steps to prevent this. Yup… Urban Legend has it that they actually pump subliminal messages in with the Muzak that says “Don’t steal” over and over. Do they add these losses into their other products? Almost definitely.

The music industry: 'Til Mp3’s came along, music piracy was done on either such a small scale that it made no difference, or on such a large scale that the perpetrators were easy to catch. .Wav and .Mid files were hardly a threat (one was too large, the other was… well… Midi). But now they have a plausible threat to profits in Mp3’s, and in Napster. Will they begin to take steps to prevent such losses? Oh yes. Like what? Shutting down Napster, perhaps? Or simply upping the costs of their products, AND forcing the increased price of third-party products that have the potential for copying music? Most definitely.

So those who believe that they’re “sticking it to the record companies”… well, have fun the next time you try to buy CD-R’s for 49 cents apiece :smiley:

I think that was my first simul-post of the board…

Mr. Feely, I completely agree. Right now, record companies are trying to completely stem the tide of “Internet music”, which ain’t too damn likely (I mean, I’ve gotten plenty of Mp3’s without Napster). Even if they manage to get rid of Napster, A: there’ll be other programs out there, and B: underground sites will still be in abundance.

The only real solution that the record companies can make would be to embrace this Internet trading. By making a stink about it, they’ll just annoy the consumers… personally, I think they’re getting all these court orders not to STOP Napster, but to delay it so they have time to hop on the bandwagon.

Okay, I concede. I thought I had a cool analogy, but I see that it’s not going to hold up to copywrite laws. Thanks to everyone for all the great points. Now, I’ll head over to the fair use thread…

Quick question though: Did people have similar problems when the printing press was invented? It seems like a similar concept in scope.

Again, I’m not quite sure about the printing press as an analogy. With Napster, thousands (tens? hundreds?) have the ability to make unauthorised copies. Printing presses were not cheap, portable machines that many could afford or maintain, so my WAG is that they usually belonged to the people who owned the originals, or at least were accountable to those people. Unauthorised copies printed off in someone’s bedroom or office would not really be a major issue.

What are the record companies selling anyway, Here are my ideas:
1: the actual CD, filled with little 1’s and 0’s - if so then mp3 is a diffrent audio format then audio cd and therefore should be allowed. This happens all the time change an invention just enough so it is a diffrent invention, patten it and sell it (or give it away).
2: They are selling you the actual music and conviently giving you the CD to play it. - this one is tougher to justify especially when laws exist that allow you to copy it as long as you don’t make money on it. (a slight aside) Also isn’t sound that is played in public fair game for anyone to record?
3: They are selling the rights for you to use the music provided on the CD but you actually don’t own it. This would be the toughest of all.

Well, audio CD’s are programmed in binary, IIRC. I believe that they’re “burned” into the CD as grooves, like an old vinyl 'cept MUUUCH smaller. Feel free to correct me, that’s not the point of my response.

Mp3’s ARE allowed. You can go and make Mp3’s of your own music, so long as you also own the CD (as has been explained in other threads, this falls under the “archival purposes” aspect of copyright laws). Go ahead and sell your Mp3’s. It’s no problem. The problem arises when you take someone else’s product, make illegal copies of it, and give it away.

To answer your question, no. However, sound that is played over the radio (I believe this is part of what you’re referring to) IS “fair game”, since the station (or, actually, the station’s sponsors) pay a fee for the right to broadcast the music. You, as a listener (and, therefore, as an addition to the station’s income), have the right to record that sound, if you so desire.

Now… “laws exist that allow you to copy it as long as you don’t make money on it”: Slight misconception. You can copy the music as long as the copies stay in your possession, and as long as you continue to own the CD (again, “archival purposes”). But by trading numerous copies to people is along the lines of giving them access to a product that they didn’t pay for the right to use.

Yes, yes, yes… “but I can lend my friends a CD, isn’t this the same thing?” Not exactly… there’s still just one product, with one consumer… one fee paid. :slight_smile:

You own that actual CD, yes. But you don’t own the rights to the CD. Basically, this can be looked at as “the entity that owns the copyright gives you an indefinite loan”. It asks for a certain amount of respect… respect for the guys that put the product together and made it possible for we, the little people, to get our greedy mitts on it.

Well, I know it is not really entirely honest, but I have trouble feeling like I am ripping off Leadbelly by having his work on my computer. The record store won’t sell me a Dave Van Ronk CD, and if you ask for Lightning Hopkins everyone just stares at you.


Well, Tris, you’re mostly right. The individual artists probably won’t suffer much… well, the “big guns”, anyway. Small-time guys, just starting out, may not get enough money since recording companies may be forced to “adjust wages” to compensate for loss from piracy, should illegal trading reach a high enough level. But then again, you won’t hear about those little guys, so your conscience is saved :smiley: