Napster: Like A Bad Rash, It Just Won't Go Away

Posted: May 15, 2001 in Life, Music
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“As Napster, as we know it suffers a slow but virtually certain court-ordered death, the era of free, all-you-can-download online music appears to be over.”

That is one of the many headlines I caught in the wake of last month’s U.S. Appellate Court ruling against the beleaguered dot-com.

And all I can say to those nay-sayers is…bite me, you uneducated masses.  Seriously though, did you really think the issue was going to leave us anytime soon?

Remember that it was I who all but guaranteed that this issue would be visiting the Supreme Court in Washington some six months ago.

And why should that have meant anything to anyone? Who the hell am I when it comes to the all-time prognosticators (and who cares if the prediction is merely few months old?)

Well I am the guy who told you two weeks before the last presidential election to “get off your ass and vote, this is going to be historically close” am I not?

I am the guy who told you to brace for the fact that the Baha Men might indeed walk away with a Grammy for “Who Let The Dogs Out?” am I not?

Ahhh, enough of that crap.  I’m thinking you are all getting the point right now.  So now, after all of those so-called “experts” questioned my wisdom and wrote Napster, Inc. off, we seem to be just about right back to where we started. Go figure.

Now, does anyone here remember my last piece on this subject?  The one where I intimated, with a big ol’ “hint, hint” that files with typographical errors in their name would not be required to be removed from the Napster database.

Well, don’t look now but that seems to have became a huge issue in this debate.

To recap, in a nutshell, the latest “legal setback” Napster was dealt indicated that record labels would be required to provide the company with a list of all copyrighted material that is to be removed from the site through a filtering program.

However, and this was one big ass however, any files that were falsely named or contained errors were not covered under the injunction. The file names submitted had to be identical to the file available online or the company was not required to remove said file.

The impact was felt immediately as millions of Napster-ites began altering their file names in subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle, ways to get around the filters that had recently been installed.

But it wasn’t until recently that some freakin’ genius kid at MIT created a program called Aimster that automatically translates your MP3 files into pig latin. This lil’ bugger will also automatically translate searches you perform so you don’t have to pull a muscle trying to figure that kind of shit out.

But the absolutely best part is there isn’t a thing record labels can do abut it.

At its base form the thing is an encryption device. If someone were to create a program that would decipher the thing that would be the equivalent of “cyber breaking & entering” according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the very same piece of legislation record labels used in their legal maneuvers that have gotten us here in the first place.

So weeks after they were supposed to shut down, Napster Inc. is just truckin’ along at a record pace, thanks in large part to all of the exposure this ruckus has created. At any given point in the day one can find more than 20 million users logged on and swapping songs at an incredible rate.

And then there are the “copycat” programs I first mentioned last summer. Gnutella, BearShare, Mactella, and OpenNap are just a few of the Napster clones that have sprung up in recent months. While none of them are as user-friendly as the original file-swapping program they can all get you what are looking for without much effort.

But the new kid on the block everyone is talking about is iMesh.

An extremely light-weight, user-friendly program, this one is based out of Israel so it is virtually lawyer proof. Why? Because number one it isn’t subject to U.S. copyright laws and two it is in freakin’ Israel.

Does anyone really think ol’ Dubya is going to jeopardize relations with only true ally in the Middle East just because Lars from Metallica is pissed about losing a little bit of his revenue stream?

And as each and every day passes, more and more users are jumping on board, taking the thing for a test drive. If, and I stress “if”, Napster does ever go under, it could be a decade or more before record labels ever figure out how to get rid of overseas based file-sharing programs.

And frankly, by then the technology will have evolved to the point where we have all moved on to something new like Bittorrents.

The revolution may not be televised, but it sure as hell can be downloaded…

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