Open Letter to Cary Sherman
Congratulations, you and the RIAA have succeeded in persuading the court to issue a preliminary injunction that will shutter Napster. I can only imagine the celebration in your corporate suites - the jubilance of lawyers, executives, staff and wealthy musicians at the prospect of a fatal blow delivered to the idea and practice of file-sharing.
In a press release issued after the victory, you expressed your belief that the defeat of Napster is a "win for artists... because whether they distribute their music through big labels, small independent labels, or on their own, the Court has made clear that they have the right to protect their works." This is very gratuitous of you, Mr. Sherman, considering that the industry obviously cares so little for artists - and even less for independent labels and artists. Many independent artists utilized Napster as an effective way to distribute their own music - myself included - yet this is not mentioned by the RIAA. Of course, for the RIAA and the industry it represents, there is but one faction of artists - those with recording contracts and market potential. The rest do not register on your radar screen.
Elsewhere in your press release, you indicate your belief that the court decision against Napster "will pave the way for the future of on-line music." Indeed, it may pave the way for the future of online music as envisioned by the RIAA and the multinational corporations it represents - but certainly not for the rest of us, independent musicians and consumers alike. In your version of the future, online music will be an identical reflection of what currently exists in meatspace - the same regurgitation of top 40 pabulum at high prices (even, as the FTC has recently determined, at rigged prices). Of course, what essentially passes for barbed wire will be twisted around your version of online music - so-called "secure" formats, encrypted, and not easily accessible, what with your paranoia that somebody somewhere at any given time may get a free ride at the expense of your multi-billion dollar margins. Apparently, it is not of concern to the industry that loyal consumers will be forced to jump through multiple technological hoops in order to placate your unfounded paranoia.
Please realize that the defeat and closure of Napster will not stem the tide of file-sharing that you and your corporate clients fear so much. As you are painfully aware, there is a spate of other file-sharing applications available to fill the large gap created in Napster's absence - primarily Gnutella, which does not suffer from Napster's obvious flaws: the central server, the readily identifiable business, and the principals of that business. Rest assured that many former Napster users will certainly migrate to Gnutella, or any number of clones that will surface now that the need has arisen. Gnutella will be a hard nut to crack for the RIAA - the application does not depend on a central server and there is no business address for wealthy rock musicians to visit and stage media events.
Finally, I will encourage music lovers to use Gnutella in Napster's absence. The primarily reason I will do this is to promote and distribute my own music. If, in the process, they share the music of the multinational corporations you represent - without exclusive permission or paying the exorbitant licensing fees you demand - that is not my concern. I sincerely believe that you do not have my interests in mind, but only those of the industry and the stockholders who profit from the distribution of over-priced and often ephemeral music.
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