But the Music Still Goes On

News
Flash! Armed with a pre-trial injunction, AOL Time Warner, BMG, EMI, Sony and
Vivendi have forced us to block songs from being shared. We’re still going
strong but we need your help. We are mobilizing an effort…and you can make a
difference…

This, of course, is from the home page of Napster.com.

Following Ms Patel’s judgement this month, Napster has begun filtering a
million copyrighted files in an effort to stay alive. There are other lawsuits
ahead. Last year it boldly offered the record labels $1 billion over five years.
Forget it, they said. February alone saw 2.7 billion Napster trades, and
lawsuits could bring $150,000 in damages for each distinct song.

Is file sharing dead? Not by a long shot. Napster’s peer-to-peer technology
spells the future of the Internet, and not just of music distribution.

Is MP3-sharing dead? No: other services will live on. Gnutella, for instance,
does not require servers with Napster-style directories, and is not easy to shut
down. There will be pirate services and Napster clones. A young Canadian (fairtunes.com)
says an OpenNap server in Britain beyond the RIAA’s reach will cost him
$15,000 in the first year, and will easily collect money from 1,500 "irate
Napster users."

But it will be tough to take these beyond hobby shops, to building big
businesses out of such services. They will not get funding in the US, and
increasingly, in other countries.

So is Napster down and out? Again, no. The old Napster is dying. But this is
not entirely outside the roadmap of Napster’s white-knight investor.
Bertelsmann (parent of BMG, one of those suing Napster) came forward with $50
million last November, because it hopes to create a secure subscription service–by
July.

For, 64 million registered users is no joke. Bertelsmann’s seen the writing
the wall, and the music industry had better see it quick. In the new world,
music distribution will be controlled by the AOL and Yahoo genre. Unless the
BMGs change quickly.

The new world is about speed, and broadband. Consider this: an MP3 file takes
20 minutes to download on our dial-up or cable connections. That’s a barrier.
It’s quicker to buy a CD. Yet, there are 64 million users of Napster. Next
year’s faster connection will take a minute to download a five-minute song.
Let’s say you have to pay Rs 99 for that song. You pay Rs 500 for a CD which
has ten other songs you don’t need. Rs 100 and one minute, or Rs 500 and a
trip to a crowded music store? Guess which is the future?

pkr@cmil.com

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