Fighting a Downhill Battle

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Universal Music Group struck a deal with Snocap (run by founder of Napster) that would allow Universal to recognize songs swapped on the network and send the users a bill. Sony-BMG is discussing a similar deal with Grokster. Why do you think the former founder of Napster (and former thorn in the side of record companies) has chosen to become the intermediary between P2P and record companies?

HW: My sense is that he wants money and his name is the primary thing he has to sell. The interesting question isn’t why he chose to work with them, it’s why they chose to work with him. And that comes down to name recognition too, I think. They want to buy the phenomenon, so they buy its former figurehead. What is the future of Peer-to-peer technology in this kind of environment?

HW: We don’t think this has any real bearing on the future of filesharing. Essentially it’s just a service where you can download songs online and pay a huge bill at the end of the month, and most of the money won’t get to the musicians. That’s nothing new–iTunes is the same thing, and we’d be shocked if they make as slick a service as iTunes. What would you say to anyone who is thinking about joining a P2P organization that requires payment?

HW: The same thing we say to anyone buying music anywhere, whether it’s from a p2p network, an online store like iTunes, or a record store: When you spend money on music, look into where your money’s going. If it’s on one of the “Big Four” corporate record labels, almost none (if any) of your money makes it to the musician. And on the whole that purchase hurts musicians, by propping up a corrupt system. If it’s on an independent label, your money’s likely to go to the right place, and you won’t be supporting monopolists.


Find out if the CD labels you buy pay radio stations to play their music at

Lessig’s site, shows how to obtain progressive licenses for artists, writers, and musicians on the web.

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