REEBEE GAROFALO, Monday September 25:

  1. To begin with, the history of the music industry is that it has greeted any new technology—from piano rolls to radio to cassette tape—with suspicion. It is also the case that the industry has generally ended up benefiting financially from every technological innovation of the twentieth century. When the dust settles around the current flap over MP3, it is likely that the same will be true, although not without some profound reorientation on the part of music corporations.

  2. One assumption I would make that I think we might all agree to is that, in terms of manufacture and distribution, the future of music will be digital, downloadable, and customized for individual taste. That being the case, the current business model of the music industry—centered on the sale of a pre-configured, read-only piece of physical property—is hopelessly outdated. Yet instead of embracing the technological advances that point the way to the future—MP3, the internet, peer-to-peer applications, etc.—the industry, as is typical, has retreated into a protectionist mentality, using its considerable clout to extend the reach of an already limited and limiting copyright system to prop up its moribund business plan. In the short run, the law will be on the side of the major corporations and it will appear as if they are scoring some victories, but ultimately this is a war they cannot win. I say this because of another assumption I make: that there is no such thing as a secure format. Unless the industry can provide a simple, convenient, and affordable way for users to download music—things that Napster already does for free—they will have no incentive to get their music through official channels.

  3. This will mean abandoning a strategy which seeks to motivate consumers negatively by the threat of prosecution in favor of one which focuses on making music downloads so convenient that official industry sites will become more attractive than the existing options the industry finds so problematic. Better enforcement is not the answer to the industry's woes; better service is.

    "Better enforcement is not the answer to the industry's woes; better service is."

  4. The average consumer is not motivated by arguments about copyright infringement, nor should they be. Copyright has never been simply an exclusive contract to exploit the fruits of one's creativity, but rather a balancing act, weighing the legal protection of intellectual property against the public rights of access to information and freedom of expression. And the history of copyright over the last 100 years is that it has become more restrictive, less concerned with promoting the public good. In the case of music this trend would be somewhat more palatable if individual artists were the beneficiaries. But they aren't; corporations are. Witness the new "Works for Hire" amendment, which makes all master recordings the property of the record company. Indeed, it is fair to say that record companies have stolen more money from artists than all the Napster users combined. Consumers have not fared much better. Recently the major labels admitted to a price-fixing scheme, which robbed consumers of approximately $500 million in a 2.5 year period.

  5. Through its past practices, the music industry has not only created the conditions under which consumers will circumvent the record companies to get their music, they have made people feel righteous for doing so.


Continue the discussion
at ECHO's Napster forum


September 25 - Reebee Garofalo
September 27 - Robert Fink and Casper Partovi
September 28 - Becky Gebhardt

September 29 - Robert Fink
September 30 - Becky Gephardt and Reebee Garofalo