Thursday, June 07, 2001

Fix for Napster The record industry and courts have shut down Napster. Decentralized alternatives (such as gnutella) ignored the customer experience of their application and ended up with something largely unusuable, and therefore largely ignored. The new Napster the RIAA develops is probably going to be as unusable as Gnutella, so mp3 trading will be returned to hard to find warez sites where it lived before.

One way to make a usable Napster artists will be OK with (although RIAA may not) is to have Napster work exactly as it does, but require a subscription fee to stop the program automatically chopping off the back 50% of the download. This eliminates onerous encryption and rights management software (which takes ownership away from users and gives it to industry cartels) and maintains individual ownership of real mp3s, not some castrato facsimile. If users don't want to pay, the service becomes essentially a marketing device where folks can hear samples of new songs. And it keeps mp3 distribution (through email and other channels) limited to the level of tape swapping, which is reasonable and should fall under fair use provisions. Money from subscription can be distributed to artists or labels as appropriate. And the whole things runs on the simple, usable, Napster front end, backed up by the simple, usable, Napster backend database.

Will it happen? Nah.

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