Open Letter to the Tabloids
his in regard to the anti-Napster website, StopNapster.com, which your group, the Tabloids, has produced. While I respect you for taking action on your beliefs in regard to file-sharing, I am concerned about much of the information published on the site. In particular, I am concerned about your desire to escalate the confrontation between Napster and the RIAA. As well, I believe you are distorting some of the facts surrounding the issue.
On the site, you suggest polluting the Napster lode with bogus files. As you may or may not be aware, this idea was initially proposed by Michael Robertson back in April on the MP3.com site. Robertson's counter offensive against Napster was surprising - considering that he is a CEO of a respected corporation. Mark Gunderson, whom you cite as the inventor of the "Napster Bomb," may have taken his cue from Robertson. Regardless, I find it interesting that you are urging anti-Napster forces - specifically, the recording industry - to embrace this desperate tactic. Apparently, you are not satisfied with the workings of the U.S. legal system, which is preparing to hear arguments on the validity of Napster and file-sharing. Is it possible you believe the legal system will not protect the music recording cartel as it has done in the past? Most legal scholars believe Napster does not have a foot to stand on and the courts will rule against it. Maybe you have little faith in the U.S. legal system. If so, this is contrary to the belief of your allies over at the RIAA - they are convinced the courts will rule in their favor.
Flooding the Napster network with bogus files may sidetrack Napster users, but it will not stop the file-sharing tide. In fact, regardless of your impatience with the legal system, it would be relatively easy for Napster and Napster users to circumvent these insertions. As you may or may not know, Napster displays the handles, or nick names, of all users on the system. Metallica presented over 300,000 of these names to Napster and forced them to boot Metallica sharing users from the network. In the same way, Napster and Napster users might keep tabs on who is inserting bogus files and advise users to avoid certain files. It would not be a perfect response, but one that may blunt the end result you are looking for. As well, Napster would have all the right in the world to ban mischievous users from the system. In order to be effective, the bombers would have to continually register under different names. Moreover, in order to truly defeat any ban imposed by Napster on the bombers, they would have to keep changing IP addresses. Inserting these files into the Napster directory would certainly become a full time job. Of course, the RIAA and the recording cartel have more than enough money and time to harass unsuspecting Napster users.
Elsewhere on the site, you employ a rather fallacious metaphor - using Napster is like having unprotected sex. This lame metaphor may very well scare the pants off less sophisticated Napster users, but those of us who understand how computer and network viruses operate realize this assertion is pure bunkum. I sincerely doubt you have devised a way to make a virus look like an MP3 file. The last time I checked, Napster was trading MP3 files, not other potentially dangerous binaries. For many of us, the assertion that using Napster will expose our computers to malicious viruses is nothing short of propaganda designed to scare away uninformed users. But then, of course, lies and propaganda are at the heart of any serious effort to engage in offensive warfare. If anything, this tactic reveals desperation, especially for the more informed among us.
Finally, you reveal ignorance when shamelessly attempting to wrap yourself in the flag, as you do when mentioning the U.S. Constitution. Yes, the Constitution specifically ensures ownership for IP owners - but for a limited amount of time, after which the work will be released to the public domain (Article 1, section. 8, clause. 8, which you abridged in your diatribe). Of course, your friends over at the RIAA do not believe in the concept of the public domain or, for that matter, fair use - in fact, if you bother to check the facts, you will notice that they have consistently engage in political action designed to extend copyright exclusivity. Currently, the time frame is life plus fifty years, far longer than the authors of the Constitution originally had in mind. In fact, if you bother to read Thomas Jefferson, you will note that he was opposed to copyright law entirely - because limited monopolies have a tendency to grow and perpetuate themselves indefinitely. This is exactly what the RIAA is attempting to do - eliminate the public commons and squander the useful arts. If they cannot do it by law, they will do it with technology - by locking up forever all content with encryption schemes.
Scare tactics and propaganda campaigns will do little to stem the tide of file-sharing technology and its adaptation. StopNapster and the RIAA may rage against the existence of Napster, Gnutella, and Freenet, but at the end of the day the advancement of Internet technology - and the empowerment of average users - will not be diminished. It is in your best interest - as musicians and record producers - to embrace this exciting and revolutionary technology and decide how to best utilize it for your advantage and that of music lovers around the world.
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