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In Digital Entertainment and Entertainment Technology
Napster and Bertelsmann unveil plan
by netwebly |2.12.2001
Downloaded: Main Page
In a move
intended to quiet speculation about the file sharing program's fate,
Napster and German media giant Bertelsmann unveiled their plan to
create a legal, non-infringing version of Napster on Friday.
changes are almost guaranteed to make the next generation of the
program virtually unrecognizable from the software which has caused
a worldwide sensation over the last year, although the parties involved
insist the changes will be almost undetectable for the average user.
key to the new system will be a proprietary digital rights management
scheme which the two companies are arguing will leave the user experience
essentially unchanged, even as it protects copyright holders from
the kind of unregulated mass duplication that has made Napster famous
- a goal many observers had long ago concluded was next to impossible.
the proposed plan, Napster users will still be able to share the
MP3 files on the hard drives of their computers and download anything
they like from other users, just as they have in the past.
Rights Management component of the plan won't come into play until
after a file has been downloaded. That's when the encryption part
comes in - and where the details of the plan start getting slightly
is clear: after downloading files users will need to use a key to
unlock protected files, a process described as being as unobtrusive
as possible - which probably means the encryption will be built
into the Napster software itself.
have not paid a fee to subscribe to the service will still be able
to listen to tracks a limited number of times before they expire
and become unplayable.
plan, subscribers will also be able to add various a la carte options.
For instance: for an unspecified fee you'll be able to burn the
tracks you've downloaded to CD or possibly make duplicate copies
for your own personal use.
If it sounds
like a plan tailor-made to appeal to the recording industry and
potentially smooth relations with aggravated content holders, well,
that's exactly what it is.
This is an
idea that - if it works as promised - could create what could easily
become the most efficient, most sophisticated and most profitable
moneymaker in entertainment history.
talk about a one size fits all subscription plan - that was clearly
a red herring, intended to buy a little more time and a little more
breathing room for Napster. The breathtaking beauty of this sort
of plan, from the point of view of an entertainment giant like Bertelsmann,
lies in the staggering number of creative ways in which such a system
can be used to make money.
this subscription idea and take it from there.
your subscribers unlimited downloads when any thirteen year old
could tell you that the real money lies in engineering a system
that mass produces profit?
the way the cell phone market works: different plans for different
people, different options for different plans, different suboptions
for different options - I'm willing to bet good
money that Napster and Co. figured out a long time ago that the
real money is in the plans.
Not to mention
in the add ons that fall neatly into place once you have the plans
set up and the content protected to your satisfaction: in
the one-time setup fees, in the single download option, in the attractively
priced download pack, in the buy-one-get-one-free download deal,
in the one day specials, in the promotions, the marketing tie ins.
perhaps, to have even the most hardened, Napster-hating entertainment
mogul taking a deep breath and contemplating a photo op with Sean
Or is it?
involved are insurmountable enough to make it unlikely that any
such plan could ever succeed anywhere but on paper, which is why
I rate the chances of eventual success here at somewhere to the
left of zero.
I want the idea to fail, or because I agree entirely with the people
who argue that music should be free, or because I am angry at Napster,
or because I am imagining some happy skippy picture perfect utopia
where we all use FreeNet every day, but because that's the way it
an ultimatum from the courts that requires the company to do everything
in its power to block unauthorized downloads Napster is in a terrible
even known if such a goal is technically possible, and if it is,
how long it will take to achieve.
has enemies on every side - in high places, in low places, in Government
and in Business, and is gaining more every day. Even the fans are
starting to get annoyed - something any politician can tell you
is not a good sign at all.
Then there's minor matter of damages to be paid that could potentially
total in the trillions of dollars or god knows - even the gazillions.
are how many more irritating little questions?
Digital Rights Management idea even work?
A lot of
people believe the whole DRM idea is a hoax - when you get right
down to it, not much more than another bullshit business model posing
as a convenient solution.
It could work. It might work. But
And what happens if it doesn't?
a surprise decision, the 9th Circuit US Court in San Francisco ruled
this morning that Napster may continue operations for the time being,
keeping the controversial file sharing service alive, if only temporarily.
said the existing injunction against Napster is too broad - but
implied that Napster is probably guilty of violating copyright law
- a key to the Recording Industry case against the company.
may be held liable for contributory copyright infringement only
to the extent that Napster knows of specific infringing files,"
may mean that Napster will be able to survive in some shape or form,
although it is likely that the heady days of unrestricted file sharing
on the service will soon be over.
on this one however: the web site for the 9th Circuit court crashed
just hours before the ruling was to be released, easily overwhelmed
by the inevitable wave of surfers eager to read the ruling.
a mirror copy, click here. Be warned:
this opinion is long, dry, contains many large words. You'll probably
want to skim it.
with the ruling, Napster said it will appeal the decision.
"Napster is not shut down, but under
this decision it could be. We are very disappointed in this ruling
by the three judge panel and will seek appellate review. The Court
today ruled on the basis of what it recognized was an incomplete
record before it. We look forward to getting more facts into the
record. We will pursue every avenue in the courts and the Congress
to keep Napster operating."
Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals
is expected to issue a ruling on the Napster case on Monday morning,
which means there is a very good possibility that this time next
week, we'll all be bemoaning the loss of one of the coolest, not
to mention one of the most controversial, software programs ever
Court is expected to post its decision on it's web site by eleven
o'clock in the morning. Don't be surprised if the news leaks earlier
in the day, however. The
media swarm has formed and is already ravaging the streets of San
Francisco as we speak, howling like a pack of wild wolves, baying
at the moon, racing from the Presidio to Market Street and back
again, overturning cable cars, smashing down doors and conducting
random, illegal searches and wiretaps in search of the one credible
source that will give one reporter his or her fifteen minutes of
the past, Napster has said that it will comply with whatever decision
the court makes. So, if the company's appeal fails, the plug is
pulled, there's not much question about that.
course, even if Napster is shut down on Monday, it's unlikely that
the game will be over. If
they loose the appeal, Napster will undoubtedly ask the Supreme
Court to review the case, since the alternative would probably be
to sit still in one place and wait for what in all likelihood will
be the most punitive and punishing damage award ever granted by
any court anywhere. An award that will most likely make the damages
awarded to the labels in the MP3.com copyright case earlier this
year look a lot like a slap on the wrist.
With the importance of the issues at stake - with the profound implications
for copyright law, for the law of intellectual property, for everybody's
privacy and for the future of content on the web, it seems almost
inconceivable that the Supreme Court would pass up on the opportunity
to establish a solid precedent. On the other hand, they just might.
Refusing to hear the Case would also establish a precedent - one
that's frightening to contemplate.
What Happens Next?
Posted by netwebly |
Napster looses, several things are almost guaranteed to happen.
They probably all won't happen on Monday. Or even on Tuesday. As
a Veteran NewsDog would put it, it will be a serious week newswise,
all week long. And it will be interesting, I'll guarantee you that
Five Minutes After
...those famous Servers are shut down, All Hell Breaks Loose.
Expect the Napster story to lead the national news, assuming
nothing particularly serious happens on the international front
in the intervening 24 hour period, (like let's a say a Coup
in Washington or a small Nuclear War in the Balkans). As a result,
traffic on the Net will surge dramatically as people go online
to follow the story and check out information about their alternatives.
If you run a file sharing site, you already know this, and you've
been busy making preparations all weekend long. On the other
hand, if you're one of the people who is trying to visit one
of those sites, don't be surprised if you're unable get much
done - many sites will go down. Nobody is ready for this kind
Will Run Rampant...
Yes, it will be entertaining, to say the least. The Media Swarm
has been looking for a story to fill in the void left by the
2000 Election Fiasco for over a month now. The Swarm is hungry,
bored and desperate for something - anything - that smells like
or vaguely resembles a Story. This means "serious"
journalists who ordinarily wouldn't touch technology with a
ten foot pole will be getting in on the action, asking predictable
questions and using up a lot of airtime.
Is a shutdown right? Wrong? A National Tragedy or A Declaration
of Intergenerational Holy War? Even, (snicker, snicker) "What
These questions will all be asked, along with a few others,
many of which will be rather silly and pointless. The moral?
If you're fifteen years old and you own a Napster Tee Shirt,
and you can find yourself a TV crew, chances are good you can
get your mug on the tube. You may want to consider writing a
speech in advance.
Small, Pointless, Web-Based Civil War...
...will break loose in the United States, which will spread
around the Globe in the course of a few hours or days: don't
expect Molotov Cocktails and rioting in the Streets. Do expect
the most serious outbreak of disorder and lawlessness to ever
hit the fiberoptic highways. Denial Of Service Attacks on major
E-Commerce Sites, Strange and horrible New Viruses. Exploding
Email Attachments and other Random Acts of Senseless stupidity.
Whether the EFF likes it or not, the Napster case, and the file
sharing debate surrounding it, is the most highly politicized
issue facing the Netizenry. For a lot of people it's a symbolic
thing. Napster stands for something in many people's minds,
whether that's justified or not. Do not despair: Declan McCullough
and Wired News will be there, wearing Flack Jackets, Face Paint
and Combat Boots.
Unfortunately, they'll be talking about Encryption.
Net will be flooded by ...
..strangely worded postings attacking the RIAA, Hilary Rosen,
and US Legal System, and the Recording Industry, few of which
will make any sense and all of which will contain numerous incomprehensible
SPELinG ErORs and grammatical lapses. The Net will then be flooded
by a second Wave of Postings, making fun of the spelling errors
and general naiveté of the first Wave. The resulting
Flame War will go on for the next One Thousand years.
"Gnutella Scenario" will finally play out....
Millions of unsuspecting newbies will experience Gnutella for
the first time, leading to a quite predictable series of cataclysmic/not
quite-so-cataclysmic events including: three weeks to a year
of network Chaos on Gnutella itself as the network strains to
adapt to the mind boggling new level of traffic it has to cope
with, a dramatic increase in the amount of free pornography
downloaded on the web, an increase in software piracy, and most
tragically of all, an increase in General Unhappiness and Woe
as people discover how easy it is to catch a virus from a corrupted
text file that says it contains credit card numbers.
And lest I forget, the number of illegal MP3 files traded on
the Net will also continue to rise - despite all of these problems
- as refugees from Napster flood alternatives like Gnutella,
the Napster Clones, iMesh, FreeNet, Aimster and countless others
where they will be joined by millions of curious new users drawn
by the millions of dollars worth of free media publicity the
crisis will create.
"Moment of Truth" Will Arrive...
Emboldened by victory, the RIAA and the Major labels will
launch a series of blitzkreig-like legal strikes against other
file-sharing applications and sites where information about
"file sharing piracy" is spread in an effort to
consolidate power and mop up resistance. After a brief lull,
expect Recording Industry lawyers to take action against the
owners of many of the Napster alternatives based in the US,
including the various Napster and Gnutella clones. With the
Napster case as precedent, expect these cases to move quickly
through the Justice System.
Don't expect the Bush Administration to be much help - if
anything, you can probably count on the Justice Department
getting involved on the side of Content Providers. Despite
the clear evidence that file sharing is completely legal -
at least on some limited, undefined level - expect this fine
distinction to be one that is missed by crusading corporate
lawyers with a quota to fill.
In the aftermath, you can count on a Draconian new Content
Law rearing it's ugly head, the result of a great deal of
behind the scenes maneuvering over the last six months on
the part of Content Providers. Such a law will attempt to
clarify the chaos caused by the Digital Millenium Copyright
Act and will presumably addresses many of the copyright issues
raised by Napster and the Net in a sweeping, overly general,
anti-consumer, pro-business fashion.
The good news is, it may not pass. We have some ornery, annoyed
Democrats on the Hill these days, as well as some remarkably
independent 'Publicans - Dubya excepted.
news is, it might...
West Coast of the United States will...
experience a 72 Hour Monsoonlike Deluge of press releases, many
of which will actually be read by the people they are sent to.
The RIAA will say "We told you so. Now we want our money."
The Major Labels will say "We told so. We want our money
.... and come to think of it we have this really cool co-branded
alternative we think people are going to go nuts over."
Needless to say, the RIAA will get eventually get its money
and the Labels will get their co-branded alternatives. In a
nice stroke of poetic justice, the co-branded alternatives will
all fail before the year 2001 is out, as people discover that
there isn't much to be said for file sharing applications that
don't let people share.
email inbox will also be flooded
with marketing drivel originating from MP3.com's corporate headquarters
in San Diego, with a new email arriving approximately once every
five minutes for the next one hundred days.
With Napster out of the picture and eMusic on the verge of self-immolation,
MP3.com will be just one of many sites that thinks it stands
to inherit the keys to the kingdom. If the site's past track
record is anything to go by, however, they'll blow it in spectacular
fashion. Instead of pulling their content act together, and
guiding millions of new visitors to the thousands of MP3 files
on the site worth listening to, MP3.com will, in typical arrogant
tech company style, leave people to their own devices and take
the opportunity to launch ten to twenty new services, featuring
bells, whistles and handheld devices and then follow up by signing
deals with QuickieMart and Taco Bell.
will do something.
Don't know what. But she'll do something.
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