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How can files still be traded on a censored Napster? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 March 2001
In principle, a music enthusiast should be able to pay for a fully functional Napster, but the recording industry representatives, with the exception of Bertelsmann, have rejected most of Napster’s offers for settlement. The recording industry isn’t known for seeing opportunity in new technology, as proven by their attacks on new formats like DAT, DVD-Audio and now MP3 file-sharing.

Who wouldn’t pay $5 to $10 per month to download tunes after sampling the pleasures of access to nearly every song ever written? Will CDR copies of garbled, low-fidelity recordings replace the compact disc or the new 24-bit resolution and 5.1 surround sound DVD-Audio format? The sales figures for albums over the past three years point to the answer being “no.”

Hardcore file-sharing enthusiasts will not be denied and Napster will not be stopped because of translator sites that provide encrypted codes for songs which would be nearly impossible for Napster to screen. As of March 5, 2001, a song like Metallica’s “Fade To Black” could still be traded under the modified name “Fade 2 Black,” even after Napster implemented its screening process. It is not clear what will be done about translator services such as timwilson.org, which allows song titles to be transformed into a series of random letters. Users go to a translator site and enter the artist and song title they want to share or download. Once users receive the “translated” artist and song title, they rename the file and tag information to the translated name. Technology like this makes it possible for Metallica’s “Fade To Black” to be renamed UNHU FM TKSLN by YVQAVRXDU. A disclaimer on timwilson.org reads, “MP3 Translator is simply a tool to allow the private trading of songs within online file sharing services. You should be aware that some songs that are blocked by Napster or other online services are copyrighted and you are personally responsible to adhere to whatever applicable copyright laws.”

Do the math: 50,000,000 users have logged into Napster since it has opened. If 30 percent of them - 15,000,000 end users - paid just $5 per month, $75,000,000 per month, or $9,000,000,000 annually, would be generated in revenue. Nine billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it isn’t worth suing over. Beyond the nine billion dollars in MP3 file sales, special offers and extremely valuable databases could be developed, much like the ones used by e-tailing giant Amazon.com, which would provide the recording industry access to people who have downloaded music similar to what they are now hyping and selling. For example, if you had downloaded a song by Ricky Martin, you might want to hear the new single from the same artist or you might want to hear from similar artists like Mark Anthony.

Congratulations, RIAA and the recording industry, you have screwed up a golden opportunity to promote, sell and develop an entirely new, multi-billion-dollar distribution network. Most ironically, you will not be able to stop the file-swapping, no matter how many lawsuits are filed.

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