In what looks to be a crippling blow to the popular internet music trading service, US District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled that Napster must shut down by this Friday at Midnight (PST). This leaves you only about a day to get those rare Haircut 100, Scritti Politti, and Bow Wow Wow songs you've been putting off.
Hell, at this point, you might as well go for some Metallica tunes, too. What good is an eventual ban from using a dead service, anyway?
Some folks are holding out hope that Napster will be able to appeal and keep it going, but that's just wishful thinking.
Napster is an incredible way to share music, and I use it regularly. But I won't pretend to think it doesn't violate copyrights. Napster's arguments that it encourages folks to sample an artist's work before buying it is frankly bullshit. I've not bought a single CD since I've started using it a few months ago.
The other claim that Napster allows "lesser known" artists to get greater exposure is crap as well. Honestly, what % of the downloads do you think are for "unknowns" vs. Eminem, Britney Spears, and other superstars?
Even if Napster gets dead and buried, they've already opened the Pandora's Box of music sharing so wide that it'll never close.
What's going to stop a Napster type company from merely setting up shop in another country that's a little more tolerant of piracy? There's small islands, for example, that'd be more than willing to pocket cash to host sites such as that.
Even if ISPs were forced to outlaw and block the transmission of MP3 files , there would be so many workarounds (like renaming the file formats) that total prevention would be impossible.
In 4 years, Napster is not likely to exist, but the way you get the music you listen to is going to change dramatically. As will your own privacy on the internet.
With the FBI eternally "Gung Ho" to track down and squash videotape and DVD piracy, don't you think with the big money behind the recording industry starts talking, they won't start going after that, too?
There's been intentional leaks about incredibly impressive net monitoring software the FBI is testing that could feasibly be modified to track the IP addresses of anyone transmitting MP3 files, for example.
I expect to see folks like AOL formally ban the transmission of unlicensed MP3 files very soon. Sure they can't prevent it, but at least they'd have an "I Told You So", clause so they can turn your account off and turn you in if they catch you.
TIME Magazine suggested that the industry could adopt tactics like dumping thousands of bogus "static only" versions of songs on the net to make people so frustrated while searching for the real ones that they'll have to buy the actual CD.
But as technology history has shown us (take copying of video games for example), for every roadblock, encryption, or safeguard the industry puts together to prevent piracy, there's 4-5 workarounds or decoding tricks to get around it.
Sharing of MP3s (and any other file type, for that matter) is here to stay, and it's not going away.
Very rarely has the consumer held as much power as they do in this situation.
In the 80s, when CDs first came out, they averaged about $25 each, largely because there were only a few factories capabale of manufacturing them. After going down to about $11 in the late 80s/early 90s, however, they've been rising again to $16 levels again.
So when a new album comes out and you can easily get it for free, or shell out $16 what are most folks gonna choose? You can take the risk and buy it, and if it sucks you're stuck with it. The worst case scenario with Napster means you just delete the file, and you're no worse off.
For every Napster that gets shut down, there's going to be 20 other sites to take it's place. And don't think it's going to stop with music.
As bandwidth and connection speeds improve, there's going to be TV show and movie equivalent versions of Napster out there. That's when you're going to see the real shit hit the fan.
Don't take this moment in history lightly. Decades from now, people will look back at the Napster saga as a defining moment in the way consumers get entertainment.
Watch Concert tickets increase dramatically. Look for less opportunities for musicians that don't have a merchandising friendly gimmick. Fortunately this may spell the end for The Dave Matthews band, but will make acts like Backstreet Boys, and NSYNC even more commonplace.
Anyway, what the hell am I doing wasting time writing this? I've got a few hundred songs I still need to download.