Napster takes the wrap
The controversy that's been brewing over MP3s for the past year is finally
reaching its climax. Following the December lawsuit brought against Napster by
the Recording Industry Association of America, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel has
issued an injunction to freeze Napster's operations as of Saturday, July 29, at
3am EDT. Meanwhile, Napster plans to submit a stay of the injunction before it
goes into effect, on Thursday, July 27.
Napster CEO Hank Barry's statement posted on napster.com outlines their
position: "We will appeal the judge's ruling to the Court of Appeals and will
ask the Court of Appeals on Thursday morning to stay the judge's order during
the appeal. If we do not get a stay, then we have until midnight Friday to
comply with the judge's order. Although we strongly and firmly disagree with the
judge's decision, we will comply with that decision if it is not stayed."
Given the strong language Judge Patel used against the company during the
hearing, Napster's move to appeal seems a bit optimistic. Its competitors are
already chomping at the bit, thrilled that the biggest music-pirating operation
on the net will become extinct -- temporarily, at least -- in a matter of days.
Sites like Audiofind are posting triumphant messages of "BYE BYE NAPSTER!!" on
their pages to celebrate the great day when 20 million Napster-users will flock
to their sites for their daily download fix.
Gnutella, one of Napster's biggest competitors, is already feeling a surge of
new users on its site. Offering a neat alternative to the dying Nap, Gnutella is
less of a company than a concept. Its technology offers free music downloads
between "peers," while the company's back-end is little more than bunch of
servers. Its corporate structure (or lack thereof) makes Gnutella difficult to
litigate and a charm to run.
This, of course, is the irony of the court injunction. It won't change the
fact that the internet hocks free music, infringes on copyright laws, and gets
musicians' backs up. It will only reroute traffic to other sites. The concept of
peer-to-peer networks is too viable to abandon. All the lawsuit will do,
eventually, is establish guidelines governing the sharing of copyrighted
material on the web -- which is only fair. It may mean you'll have to pay for
your download of the Bjork cover of that Metallica song written by that Jerry
Leiber guy, but sometimes the best things in life aren't free.
And anyway, there's lots of time between now and Saturday to download a whole
PC-full of Napster tunes. If you're planning to get on-line and loaded-up before
then, be prepared to sit and stare at your screen for many seconds at a time.
Napster.com is experiencing unprecedented traffic in advance of the court
injunction, and you'll have to be patient if you plan to nab some last Napster
hits. If, on the other hand, you're an advertiser, then what in the web are you
waiting for? A banner ad posted on napster.com between now and Saturday will
rake in more millions than a Michael Jackson concert-tour of Japan, in the 80s,
in the rainy season, with Liz Taylor in tow. Happy looting,