MEDIA WATCH: Downloadable music debate heats up in the media

Downloading music directly over the Internet is quick, easy and free. It’s said to have become one of the Internet’s most popular activities, with software companies like Napster racking up nine million users in six months - by comparison, AOL needed 12 years to amass as many users (Newsweek, May 8). Favorite songs and full albums can be downloaded, in CD quality, as digital music files in the MP3 format and traded with others or burned onto your own custom CD mixes. While this may be a delight for fans, it has been called the music industry’s ’worst nightmare’ (CNN, May 10). Consequently, record companies and heavyweight acts such as Metallica and Dr. Dre have gone on a legal offensive against Napster.

Downloading music directly over the Internet is quick, easy and free. It’s said to have become one of the Internet’s most popular activities, with software companies like Napster racking up nine million users in six months - by comparison, AOL needed 12 years to amass as many users (Newsweek, May 8). Favorite songs and full albums can be downloaded, in CD quality, as digital music files in the MP3 format and traded with others or burned onto your own custom CD mixes. While this may be a delight for fans, it has been called the music industry’s ’worst nightmare’ (CNN, May 10). Consequently, record companies and heavyweight acts such as Metallica and Dr. Dre have gone on a legal offensive against Napster.

Downloading music directly over the Internet is quick, easy and

free. It’s said to have become one of the Internet’s most popular

activities, with software companies like Napster racking up nine million

users in six months - by comparison, AOL needed 12 years to amass as

many users (Newsweek, May 8). Favorite songs and full albums can be

downloaded, in CD quality, as digital music files in the MP3 format and

traded with others or burned onto your own custom CD mixes. While this

may be a delight for fans, it has been called the music industry’s

’worst nightmare’ (CNN, May 10). Consequently, record companies and

heavyweight acts such as Metallica and Dr. Dre have gone on a legal

offensive against Napster.



CARMA International monitored media coverage of the various legal

activities against Napster and found that most stories portrayed Napster

as aiding and abetting copyright infringement of artists’ intellectual

property and contributing to decreased album sales. Artists were quoted

as saying that Napster’s activities amounted to piracy on a massive

scale. ’Downloading one of our songs on Napster is no different than

walking into a Tower Records and stealing a Metallica CD,’ argued

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich (USA Today, May 9).



Defenders of MP3 and Napster appeared less frequently in the

coverage.



Several media reports suggested ’the genie’s out of the bottle’ (CNNfn,

May 2), meaning the music industry could not just shut down Napster and

hope the technology would go away.



Noted technology columnist Walter Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal

(May 11) criticized the industry for not using the new technology to its

advantage. ’The record companies just don’t get it. Like most entrenched

interests facing a revolutionary business innovation, they are reacting

to it purely as a threat, not as an opportunity.’



From Napster’s point of view, few reports appeared optimistic regarding

its legal issues. However, numerous reports suggested that it’s

virtually impossible to enforce swapping not only music, but all kinds

of data files.



Napster was portrayed as just the tip of the iceberg, with several

companies offering similar services. Data-sharing software Gnutella

offers even more anonymity for its users and is not run by an individual

company, so it cannot be sued.



Some reports noted that Napster’s defense in its legal cases would be

that it is a mere conduit, like an ISP or a VCR company, which cannot be

held responsible for users’ copyright infringements. But the media paid

more attention to a US district court judge who dismissed those

claims.



Only a handful of articles touted possible benefits of digital

audio.



Reports portrayed rapper Chuck D as the most visible proponent of the

benefits of digital audio to an artist: increased promotional exposure,

additional sales, increased artistic control and independence from

record companies.



While media outlets appeared to favor stories suggesting Napster is

violating copyright laws, there also seemed to be a consensus that this

new technology is the future of music.





- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA. Media Watch can be found at

www.carma.com.



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