Napster’s MP3 trading becomes a pay-for-use service

Mike Schoeck

For well over one year now there has been an ongoing debate pinpointing the free exchange of MP3 music files and other media between online computer users.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did nothing new this week by clamping down on the online song-swap service Napster. The court underlined the policy that the service must implement a fee-charged monthly membership with its technology in the coming months.
The Court of Appeals, politicians, and musicians have expressed their discontent over the tiresome controversy. Free speech advocates and a lineup of politicians both liberal and conservative are tired of the clampdown.
The independent TVT Records dropped its lawsuit against Napster on Jan. 25, a $1.5 billion copyright infringement claim. “It is high time that the [recording] industry embraces a service that the public has so emphatically said they want,” TVT’s founder/President Steve Gottlieb said.
The Bertelsmann agency, founder of BMG and, is currently holding Napster’s hand. The guardian company has provided 20-year old Shawn Fanning’s Napster Inc. with $50 million to make software that will require users to pay for music exchange service.
From a general grasp of history, a couple significant past controversies come to mind when I think of the Napster situation. Prohibition of alcoholic beverages during the 1920’s and a Simpsons’ episode-parody is a random example that readily comes to mind.
Like a chain effect, Napster is forced to set regulations on its consumption due to public interest. The service is upheld by `Big Brother’ policies, which enforce a base price. Meanwhile, a slew of identical services (Gnutella, ScourNet, Freenet, et. al.) face similar restrictions, but manage to keep ticking, nonetheless, in Napster’s shadow.
Push comes to shove, and spin-off services become the standard. Hey, that big-wig judge can’t keep up chasing his tail. Why do I pay to sample music when another service provides the same for free? Of the largest generation of young people in American history enlisted in colleges for a very pretty penny, I would say I deserve certain privileges as a generation `wired.’
“Theoretically, file-sharing approaches could go beyond shopping to stimulate interest in education, business, even politics, if the music experience is any indicator. And it sure ought to be,” said prolific journalist & Wired magazine founder, Jon Katz.
Proponents of forcing users to be charged for file-swapping ignore a predominant reality-check here. This generation of ours was raised on the consumption of MTV, animated cartoons, and cheesy sitcoms. The average college student downloads meaty megabytes of MP3’s to expand their tastes and fondness of music in its expanses.
Musician-interests in promoting their talents on Napster is the easiest way to gain support. Record-labels are staunch-standing, yet there is no wrong in letting users listen and share music. It builds a following, gives kids singles and samples of new artists’ material (like those dusty black plastic jobs your folks keep in the attic), while generating steady sales at record shops and online vendors.
“It was never really about getting paid. It was just getting people to hear my music and say, `Hey, I like your song.’ So if Napster wants to put my song out so people can download it or whatever, let `em do it,” Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong said.
Network traffic is a concern, but problems can be solved upgrading college servers to accommodate a broader, yet diverse audience. Compared to costs living at a private university like Quinnipiac, five dollars a month is an adequate sacrifice I would be willing to pay given the chance to access Napster on campus again.
Quinnipiac resident students have given up on enjoying the exchange of MP3’s through Napster and similar services due to the shaky school network’s server shutdown of accessing free services. Only internal network exchanges of MP3’s and files can be achieved with the Napster service and AOL Instant Messenger.