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Music Piracy Software The Internet Technology

Napster: the Day the Music Was Set Free 243

theodp writes "Before iTunes, Netflix, MySpace, Facebook, and the Kindle, 17-year-old Shawn Fanning and 18-year-old Sean Parker gave the world Napster. And it was very good. The Observer's Tom Lamont reports on VH1's soon-to-premiere Downloaded, a documentary that tells the story of the rise and fall of the file-sharing software that started the digital music revolution, and shares remembrances of how Napster rocked his world. 'I was 17,' writes Lamont, 'and the owner of an irregular music collection that numbered about 20 albums, most of them a real shame (OMC's How Bizarre, the Grease 2 soundtrack). One day I had unsupervised access to the family PC and, for reasons forgotten, an urge to hear the campy orchestral number from the film Austin Powers. I was a model Napster user: internet-equipped, impatient and mostly ignorant of the ethical and legal particulars of peer-to-peer file-sharing. I installed the software, searched Napster's vast list of MP3 files, and soon had Soul Bossa Nova plinking kilobyte by kilobyte on to my hard drive.' Sound familiar?"
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Napster: the Day the Music Was Set Free

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  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @03:51PM (#42996783)
    That is really the bigger story. Even now, instead of making money hand over fist printing digital money the riaa would rather create artificial barriers and ridiculous price points for online distribution. If Apple had not dragged them kicking and screaming into the mp3 drm-less world they would have probably broken their cartel by now.
  • Re:Sound familiar? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2013 @04:16PM (#42996937)

    Nope .. not at all .. I have paid for every bit of music that I own, starting with LPs & singles, cassette tapes, CDs and even downloads. (Yeah I know I'll have to buy the White album again)

    And I prefer music organized in an album .. with a theme .. and good liner notes .. and artwork!

    Now get off MY lawn

    People like you are more annoying than thieves because you love to march around, pound your chest and for no reason at all constantly have to announce to everyone how you dont steal. Youre as bad as people who do bad things and then find jesus because all they do is march around and shove stuff down the throats of anyone within earshot when in reality no one ever asked or even cares.

    Because really now, what exactly was the point of coming and proving how righteous you are to a bunch of strangers? Is your ego so huge and your self esteem so low that you feel the need to just blindly push your self righteous bullshit on us?

  • by uberdilligaff ( 988232 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @04:25PM (#42997009)
    I wonder whether it taught you a lesson about backups...
  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @04:26PM (#42997021)

    Want to screw with the USPTO? Nominate Fanning and Parker for a National Medal of Technology and Innovation [], "the highest honor awarded by the president of the United States to America's leading innovators." Funny thing is, they probably deserve it!

  • by mister_playboy ( 1474163 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @04:32PM (#42997057)

    Between St. Anger and the Napster battle, those were very bad times for Metallica. Their reputation has never recovered since.

  • by Dexter Herbivore ( 1322345 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @04:39PM (#42997085) Journal
    You know what saddens me the most? NONE of the music executives/Metallica goons looked at Napster and went, "Holy shit! This is the way of the future, let's investigate this distribution option and adapt it to our own purposes".
  • Re:IF..... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gmack ( 197796 ) <> on Sunday February 24, 2013 @04:39PM (#42997087) Homepage Journal

    Strangely enough I cut back on album purchases when Napster died since I had no way to find new stuff I like and nothing I like was ever on the radio. Thankfully YouTube finally replaced Napster for my sampling needs but there were a few years in between the two where I bought absolutely nothing music wise.

    I'd say the RIAA out right blew their own leg off.

  • Re:Sound familiar? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2013 @04:49PM (#42997163)

    On top of all that, he also is direcly funding the RIAA and MPAA finances so they can bribe more politicians and harm the free internet, yeah people like him are clearly guilty of funding terrorism.

  • First Chance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2013 @05:00PM (#42997251)

    Napster was the first and last chance that the music industry was GIVEN to embrace digital distribution, they instead chose to embrace the legal system. The result was that Napster (Not a P2P service but a centralized & controllable service) was shut down.

    Who'd have thought that the largest market demand possible would cause someone to develop a product?

    Then came P2P, which they are suing the operators of Search engines / Indexers.

    The came distributed P2P so they are suing the users.

    Next comes anonymous & encrypted P2P

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @05:13PM (#42997339)

    They didn't have need to, really. The power of Napster's p2p model was to eliminate hosting costs - the amount of data Napster shifted would have cost a fortune by conventional means. But if you're running a business, that's not an issue. iTunes doesn't use p2p. The only thing that the industry should have learned from Napster was that customers really want convenience and speed.

  • by Lanboy ( 261506 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @05:27PM (#42997415)

    This is my main conspiracy theory. The years that napster ran unchecked, glorious, glorious years, were the years that the RIAA recorded their greatest profits, level of profit that they have not equaled since. I think that unfettered access to music of all genres makes people better music consumers. I personally became excited about music as I had not been since my youth ( I am an old ) . I bought more cds, I went to more concerts. I have tapered off again because it is just harder to get things done, so I don't bother. The numbers say I am not alone.

    I feel the real reason the music companies are terrified of electronic music distribution is twofold.

    One, maintaining limited participation in music distribution to protect the status quo, it democratizes the process creating methods of distribution that a smart player could get involved and push the old fogeys out.

    Two, electronic music distribution makes the tracking of music sales trivial, and the accurate assignment of funds to the correct copyright holders, and audit by same go from a difficult and arcane process to a simple exercise in database management. This is the last fucking thing the labels want. Since the beginning of the recording industry, the most powerful and profitable labels have gotten there by screwing the musicians. Hiding overseas profits, disguising sales and production runs, overstating promotional costs, accounting errors ( never in the favor of the artist, I assure you ) anything, actualy, to hide the actual profits from the musicians, and send it to the record companies' coke habits.
    Try to watch a music documentary from the past 50 years. Find one where the label wasn't fucking the artist over. The labels don't want this to change, this is why they have to be dragged into digital music by their shorthairs, they need time to set up the structures to screw the artists out of their due. If you are ever wondering why packaged and cookie cutter artists seem to thrive, it is because they are more easily bilked out of the profits.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2013 @05:43PM (#42997545)

    The years that napster ran unchecked, glorious, glorious years, were the years that the RIAA recorded their greatest profits, level of profit that they have not equaled since.

    Largely coincidental, IMO. The economy was booming, and the mainstream media still dominated the cultural narrative. Much of those profits were teenyboppers buying Britney Spears CDs and baby boomers trying to re-live their youth with some oldass rock bands. Napster widened the perspective of a lot of people, but in the big picture, it was small potatoes.

    If the Internet sharing effect were real, you would expect that live concerts and memorabilia would be a booming business now. Instead music biz revenues have continually gone down because Internet-based media makes it difficult to push culture onto the mainstream audience.

  • by nametaken ( 610866 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @06:22PM (#42997835)

    The only thing that the industry should have learned from Napster was that customers really want convenience and speed.

    Right, and perhaps just as important, that people didn't want a $16 CD of shitty filler to get the one song they heard on the radio. But the industry didn't learn those things. Instead they were dragged, kicked and screaming, into the iTunes model. Meanwhile file-sharing never died... it got better, and legitimate music purchasing has had to get better to compete with it. Everything has gotten easier, cheaper, more organized, with better quality and consistency. In every way, people won.

    Now it's TV's turn. That industry refuses to look five years in the future, so they'll be forced, just as it was with music. People don't want all the garbage that comes with the one thing they like, and they won't tolerate the obscene bill and mandatory advertising.

    Today you can spend $35 on a computer, add a free software plugin, and immediately call up any television show you want in HD, no commercials, on demand, for free. It's only going to get better and that industry is going to have to compete or die.

    Buggy whip manufacturers have to evolve and it's seldom voluntary.

  • They wouldn't be making any money. That's the point. They are no longer needed because artists can get their music directly to the fans, no physical reproduction or distribution necessary. They are also terrified of Amazon and Apple who could easily become the next big music labels and crush them.

    In the UK we have one high street chain music retailer left, and half its stores just closed as it went into administration. Soon the only places selling physical music will be supermarkets, who are big enough to screw the BPI and all the music labels who are part of it.

    We are seeing the desperate thrashing about of a wounded animal as it gets ripped apart.

  • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @07:29PM (#42998329) Homepage
    The black album was definitely a turn in the wrong direction. I think it was tolerable (even if I haven't really listened to it in decades) but that may be me being kind because it's a freaking gold compared to Load.

    But I do think it would have been better if they called it quits after Justice.
  • by gig ( 78408 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @08:59PM (#42998897)

    DAT and MP3/MP4 are the best examples of Sony fucking it up.

    In order to “protect content” they ruined DAT by disallowing digital-to-digital copies, which were necessary since DAT tape is fragile, and therefore a DAT recording would break and be gone forever because it was unprotected by backups. Considering that most DAT users were musicians and audio producers, they destroyed a lot of content, not protected it.

    And they pushed their crazy “protected” ATRAC format and Mini-Disc instead of MP3/MP4. Brutal mistake when consumers were already buying “unprotected” CD audio.

    No need to worry about Sony since they are going out of business any moment now.

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Monday February 25, 2013 @02:22AM (#43000603) Journal
    A nerd who sets up a NAS for someone expects to only get paid once. A musician who writes and records a song expects to get paid and paid and paid and paid and paid once again. In fact, they expect to get paid each time someone listens to the same job the musician performed decades ago. Further, they expect to get paid again even if a person has listened before and already paid them. Oh, and not on some diminishing scale. They expect the same pay as the first time around (or even more, inflation, you know). The arrogance is outstanding. Work once and get paid forever. What a con!
  • by fafaforza ( 248976 ) on Monday February 25, 2013 @11:03AM (#43002789)

    Are you comparing a simple app written by a high school kid where people are the ones ripping the music, to one from the largest US corporation set up with cooperation of record labels?

Beware of Programmers who carry screwdrivers. -- Leonard Brandwein