Napster's Legacy Lives On
Here lieth Napster: Net renegade, consumer advocate, corporate ire inducer, and theft enabler.
Although Napster's prolonged death rumble finally came to its last gasping breath this week when a judge
Despite the fact that users looking to
While Napster's free-trading ways were eventually tamed by the record industry, when they had the peer-to-peer site knocked permanently offline last year, the
"Napster may be gone but the legacy that it left behind was millions of users who were exposed to the concept of P-to-P networks," says Michael Gartenberg, research director at Jupiter Research. "The genie is out of the bottle."
Napster, which claimed over 60 million users at its height, was run from central servers, making it relatively easy to shut down. However, the newfangled P-to-P networks that have arrived in its place, such as
No wonder the music industry has launched a fierce retaliatory campaign, firing off lawsuits while sending in armies of lobbyists and legislative foot soldiers in an attempt to thwart piracy.
Aside from copyright infringement suits against the P-to-P networks, the music industry has been lobbying in Washington for copyright-protection controls in electronic consumer devices and other protective measures.
But while groups like the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America have rolled out the big guns, the free file-swappers are clearly not ready for a retreat.
Kazaa home users totalled 8.2 million in June, according to research from ComScore Media Metrix, while P-to-P software application Audiogalaxy had 3.2 million users that same month and Morpheus 2.9 million.
What's more, the RIAA's recent attempts to track down individual, infringing file swappers, have apparently boiled the blood of some tech-savvy swappers, who not only
"The hacking crowd is not a group of people you want to pick a fight with," Gartenberg says. "If the game here is going to be a technical cat and mouse, the recording industry is doomed to failure."
Gartenberg predicts that the recording industry is in for an uphill battle unless it can make some serious concessions on music pricing and portability.
"Right now we can have any song we want by any artist we want for free and the response to the record industry is what are you countering that with?" he says.
While major-label backed online music subscription services are beginning to ease their rigid hold on music by offering consumers features such as CD burning, the industry is not prepared to give up the ship yet, despite the tenacity of the pirates.
Speaking on the introduction of new anti-piracy legislation last July, RIAA Chairman Hilary Rosen said, "the current landscape for online music is dangerously one-sided, with peer-to-peer pirates enjoying an unfair advantage."
With the popularity of P-to-P networks on the rise, it might be some time before the music industry regains ground. Still, the demise of Napster, once the emblem of tech rebel hipness, serves as a stark reminder of assailability of things that appear too good to be true.
And while Napster's cold remains are now for sale in
Given this, perhaps Napster's best eulogy is the one it wrote itself, appearing now on www.napster.com: "Napster was here."