Open Letter To Rob Reid, CEO of Listen.com
Today I read a bit of disturbing news: your corporation, under threat of lawsuit, has successfully prevented Napster from utilizing certain words in its music genre tree. I find it interesting that you accuse Napster of unfairly acquiring these genre names (i.e., "darkside"), which you claim to have invented and thus own. On the contrary, I believe that Listen.com has taken liberties with words that are now part of our common music heritage. For instance, "darkside" is a take on the "dark" genre of electronic and industrial music. Your assumed ownership of this name is nothing short of absurd - any competent lawyer would be able to establish a close relationship between these two words in a court of law. I take it, as well, in the World/Reggae section of your website, you claim to own the term "Ceremonial/Chants" simply because you have stitched these two words together?
Mr. Reid, it is my contention that Listen.com - with its lawyers and corporate mentality concerning the ownership of mere words - is foisting a disservice on the emerging world of digital music by engaging in frivolous and potentially damaging lawsuits. Can you imagine the result if the originators of such words as "punk" or "folk" had retained a lawyer and decided to sue every website, magazine, book, etc., that used those terms? Can you imagine the negative impact on music?
Naturally, as a corporate entity, it is likely that the absurdity of your threat to sue Napster for using words you claim to have invented escapes you. Music, however profitable, finds its roots in creativity and openness - and this includes its terminology. This creativity and openness is tarnished when corporations such as Listen.com attempt to grab terms that define what are essentially components of our shared musical heritage - regardless if "side" is tacked on the end of "dark" or not. Creativity, fairness, and openness are betrayed by niggling lawsuits or threat of lawsuits. In fact, the very spirit of music is betrayed by the corporate character toward music as exemplified by Listen.com and other so-called services such as MP3.com. Can you imagine the result if every musician claimed ownership of a certain series of chords or bridges? The result would be far less music and far more trivial and unnecessary lawsuits.
Finally, I cannot help but think that your very public disagreement with Napster is nothing more than a rather uninventive way to align yourself with the established music industry, as represented by the RIAA. It's no secret that services such as Listen.com need the approval of the RIAA in order to license copyrighted music. How better to do this than to threaten a lawsuit of your own against Napster? Of course, if the current situation between MP3.com and EMI is any indication, you will have a difficult time dealing with the industry - as with all monopolistic entities, the recording industry has no desire to share with you or any other upstart music business, not seriously anyway.
Kurt Nimmo firstname.lastname@example.org
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