Naptime For Napster?
By Wil Forbis
Months ago, maybe six months ago, I stopped over at my good friend T-Dogg's apartment and knocked on his door. "Have you heard about Napster?" he queried, while I stepped in over the overdosed transvestite shivering in his doorway and tried to shoo away the rat that had begun devouring the addict's left eye. "Sure, I remember Napster," I replied. "He fought the Adam West Bat-Man in year two of the television series. Didn't he create a giant gun that shot cheese fondue all over Gotham city, forcing the Dynamic Duo to...?"
"Silence" T-Dogg howled, seated in front of his shimmering computer monitor. "I have limited patience for your mental dribbling! Napster is the greatest piece of software ever. Napster is the greatest THING ever! Using Napster I have the power to conquer the WORLD...!!!"
"Conquer the world, eh" I replied, vaguely concerned at the possibility. "Well, what does Napster do?"
"It's a powerful file sharing system, that allows users to trade MP3s online." T-Dogg stated. "You can search for existing music files on thousands of people computers. Want the new Britney Spears (Of course I did)? You got it. Want that obscure Richard Pryor live recording from 1973? You got it. Want the complete collection of David Allen Coe? You got it. I've been spending hours on this thing. I must have downloaded thousands of dollars of music so far."
"Sounds good" I replied, mentally thankful for any activity that would keep my friends online and away from children. "But how does this help you conquer the world?"
"Uhh, I haven't figured that part out yet" T-Dogg sheepishly admitted. "But look, I'm downloading a live out-take of the Archies doing 'Sugar, Sugar!' I can tell you this much, my compatriot: Napster is unstoppable!"
Fastfoward to now, and that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. As I write this, Napster has scored a minor victory, having been granted a stay that momentarily blocks a previous judge's injunction shutting the Napster web site down, but the smart money says that won't last long. Too many people, like the Recording Industry Association of America, various lawyers and yes, even Metallica, are screaming for Napster blood. And even if it's only to make an example out of the company, they're going to get it.
I bring all this up because I recently been asking myself, "What do you, Wil Forbis, think of Napster?" Interestingly, I don't think I fall in either of the two obvious camps. Predictably, there were those who loved Napster, who wholeheartedly supported the concept of downloading licensed music over the Internet with no reimbursement to the artists or record companies. Then, there were those who were deadset against it, who saw as nothing more than piracy, equivalent to going into the nearest Sam Goody and walking out with the newest Kool Keith CD snuggled inside your jacket.
My view came out as a strange combonation of the two viewpoints. While, yes, I do think downloading music is piracy, in fact, it is theft, Napster was simply a tool. It was not a magic wand that suddenly sucked millions out of the recording industry, it was simply a device generated from computer code that mapped out the hard drives of various computers connected to it. Could it be used maliciously? Yes. (So can a butter knife.) Did Napster promote its tool to be used maliciously? Yes, and perhaps there they deserve some punishment (though it's doubtful the punishment should be strong enough to destroy the company.) But ultimately, the libertarian in me is forced to look at Napster as an impassive construct, worthless unless someone is driving it. If those people who use the tool use it incorrectly, then they should be punished, though, as the lawyers have whined, that may be quite difficult due to the nature of the Internet. (Actually, it's the matter of who should be punished that separated the complaints against Napster filed by Metallica and Dr. Dre. Metallica wished to punish Napster itself, while Dre was going after the individual users who were committing the piracy (users like T-Dogg.) This explains why Metallica are a bunch of washed up metalhedz who haven't written a decent song in 10 years and Dre is a superfly industry icon.)
Ultimately, it doesn't matter. If Napster goes down, twenty more file sharing tools will rise to take it's place. And Lord knows, there are plenty of other ways to get free music. You kids today may never have heard of a little thing called shoplifting, but it was required reading in my day. Or purse snatching. Or car jacking. Or home invasions. All wonderful ways to add to your music collection, while experiencing the thrill of being chased by police through your neighbor's pit bull kennel. Ahh, those were the days.
What do you think America? Leave your comments on the Guestbook!
Wil Forbis is a well known international playboy who lives a fast paced life attending chic parties, performing feats of derring-do and making love to the world's most beautiful women. Together with his partner, Scrotum-Boy, he is making the world safe for democracy. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Wil's web log, The Wil Forbis Blog, and receive complete enlightenment.