Saturday, March 3, 2001

So, what to talk about? I feel like examining the latest Napster developments today.

Here’s the latest: Napster is going to block access to certain filenames (ones representing copyrighted songs, presumably). Because nobody will ever misspell a filename to get around the filter.

Seriously, it’s an extremely limited measure that anyone can compromise if they give a moment’s thought to it. Even if this filter was implemented it now, it wouldn’t stop the trading of mp3’s. The tide might shift by a few percentage points, but it wouldn’t last.

And meanwhile the RIAA is making millions of enemies. Don’t count out the power of that issue; as that number grows, so does the number of powerful people in that group. The common opinion will eventually be “the RIAA sucks,” and when everyone believes that — including the people who do business with the RIAA, much less lawmakers — the RIAA will suddenly find itself in serious hot water.

And really, the RIAA is saying “If we don’t fight this, sales will plummet,” with no data to back up their statements. People have a tough time taking them seriously.

What’s most ironic, to me, is that the RIAA is fighting a war that’s already over. People aren’t going to stop making mp3’s. And once made, they’re going to be distributed. And in today’s electronic world, there are many many ways to distribute mp3’s.

If I were the RIAA, I’d say “OK, make mp3’s. We’ll make that legal now. Just please, buy the CD’s, too. And if our CD sales plummet, we’ll deal with it. But this is too big for us to fight.” And if sales do plummet, they can have hard data to fight with, which will impress a lot more people.

All it takes is a leap of faith. But the RIAA doesn’t have the guts, does it?

And that’s exactly the belief that the RIAA is fostering in the public with their inane mp3 fight. Smart way of doing business, isn’t it?

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