Nine thoughts on free music file sharing

by Kurt Nimmo.

1. Napster will be put out of business. But the idea of free music file-sharing will not die. Gnutella or whatever follows will fill the vacuum created by the forced closing down of the Napster operation. Or Napster will change. It will disallow unauthorized copyrighted music and shift focus on sanctioned music industry promo releases and freeware music distribution. It will attempt to restore legitimacy by sponsoring concerts and merchandizing. This will fail and loyal Napster devotees will go with Gnutella or any number of Gnutella-like clones.

2. In order to put even the smallest dent in the free music file-sharing movement, the RIAA and other so-called trade groups (actually more akin to legal battle formations) will need to go after individual users. This is completely untenable. The outrage and subsequent activism by civil liberty groups will be nothing short of a public relations punch in the face to the RIAA. Covert operations to snare file-sharing individuals will backfire. A few selected people may become the Kevin Mitnicks of the Free Music movement. In the end the RIAA will abandon this method and attempt to seriously enter the online digital world with some SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative) standard. This will fail as well.

3. The FBI has declared war against copyright infringement. But they are nearly helpless to do anything substantive about it. People who share music files may be arrested and brought before the court. Some may even suffer fines and imprisonment. Yet people will continue to share music files. There are speed limits on freeways. Even cops. But people continue to speed. Danger and pushing the envelope seem to be integral to human behavior. Gnutella and Gnutella-like clones will play cat and mouse with law enforcement over the Internet.

4. SDMI will flop because consumers do not want to jump through technological hoops in order to hear music. People want one standard. That standard already exists. It's the MP3 standard.

5. Decentralized and smaller music distribution channels will proliferate on the Internet. Many of these will use the gift economy and music freeware method as an effective way to market new music and all the profitable tangibles associated with it. The old monopolistic music distribution channels will shrink. But they will not evaporate. Physical CDs will remain in demand for decades to come. The music encoded on those discs will remain copyable. The industry will simply lose market share. Any attempt to force manufacturers to RIAA and SDMI dictated standards will collapse. Defeat will be in the wind.

6. Any encryption scheme devised by the record industry will be hacked and they know it. DeCSS is the model.

7. Slick propaganda campaigns will be initiated against the concept of free music file-sharing. These will take on the guise of morality plays. People will remain indifferent. People who share music do not like to be preached to. Many will resent being characterized as thieves and pirates and criminals for the act of sharing the music they love. In response crackers will break into music industry sites and alter home pages. Mostly people will simply ignore the crass propaganda.

8. Gnutella-like anonymous file-sharing and searching will replace the central server Napster model. It may even replace Yahoo and AltaVista. The government will attempt in some futile fashion to outlaw anonymous remailing and cloaked web surfing. Encryption will come under scrutiny again. Dire warnings of terrorists and pedophiles using anonymous file-sharing for evil will be trotted out. The hackers and renegades will always be one step ahead of clueless government officials. War will be declared against Gnutella-like apps. But dispersed open-source development and distribution of these apps will vex the hell out of them.

9. In desperation the entertainment industry will implement the Michael Robertson Approach - bogus MP3 files containing voiceover advertisements will be flooded into the pool of available content. Pollution will become a fact of life. Software will be developed that reads a file and detects bogus insertions. These files will be deleted immediately.

Free Music || Ram Samudrala ||