MP3s, Napster, and Metallica : LUSENET : Xeney : One Thread

How do you feel about the issue? I know a lot of webloggers and journalers have strong feelings one way or the other. What are your thoughts?

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000


My loyalty to Metallica leads me to a "good for them!" type of reaction, but honestly, I don't care if they lose a bit of profit. I've given them enough money. Even with the "our own label" argument.

Same for the rest of the big groups.

However. I can see where it would hurt some smaller labels, groups, not-too-knowns. Maybe.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Having worked in the record business I can tell you that the record labels are the only ones turning a profit unless a release is hugely successful. Most artists negotiate deals based on a percentage of royalties, which will only benefit them if their sales figures are significant.

What this means, is that bands like Metallica have every right to be pissed off that their songs are getting downloaded for free. People who don't understand how the industry works imagine that all well known artists are making millions of dollars, but this simply isn't true. Record companies take a huge chunk of the profits, and when the hits dry up the artists depend on their royalties to get by.

I simply don't understand why anyone would believe it is their right to download an MP3 for free. You just can't justify that. Metallica wrote and recorded their material, and they have every right to expect to get paid for it.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Loath as I am to get sucked into another debate about this (because the one my husband and I had about it this morning lasted way too long for my liking), I had to agree with something someone on Fametracker said about it: 'I would feel a bit more sympathetic to Metallica's plight if it weren't for the fact that each member of the band owns their own fucking Lear Jet.'

(Salon had a good run of articles about this not too long ago, but I'm too lazy to look up the link.)

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

It doesn't really matter whether every member of Metallica owns one Lear Jet or six, the fact remains that their music is copywrited. Why should they give it away? It's one thing to dub a few cassettes, it is another thing entirely to allow hundreds of thousands of people to openly download everything you've ever recorded for free.

If artists can't make money doing it, many of them won't be able to continue making music.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

It's true that Metallica are within their rights as defined by copyright law, but I'd like to know how people feel about copyright law, is it an adequate or fair construction, especially in terms of music?

The idea that music is and only is property, especially that it is private property, is definitely prevalent. But, as many may know, it has been called more into question with the issue of sampling.

Besides, it's kind of a bummer, isn't it, to discuss music as if it is a discrete, separable commodity? doesn't it have other functions, and meanings? is it partly a public good, a cultural artifact? a source for other music?

I know the most common response is "get real. once something, especially property, is fixed in law, that's just the way it is" but I see some of the new discussions of open-source code and "copyleft" as potentially very interesting for the future of copyright.

Most of these systems only benefit those who are big players anyway, as was mentioned above: unless you get huge numbers in sales, royalties may not mean the differnce between survival and not. So what then? is more enforcement or raising of the royalty percentage to the artist(lotsa luck) the only answer?

It's also an interesting point the difference between getting into the music business and staying in it. At what level does the lack of royalties prevent an artist from being able to create, especially if royalties are only significant to big players?

these issues are different in "third world" countries as well, where piracy accounts for a much higher percentage of the music business. As far as damage to local artists (I've read about Oumou Sangare, I think, in Mali), but this may have something to do with the lack of local capacity to produce cheap cds or tapes, as well as maybe less well-equipped customs and anti-piracy police.

anyway some thoughts..


-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

MP3's <--- My initial thought the first time I heard the phase was, oh what brand of car is that? No really, I'm totally serious and I'm afraid my now knowing it's music related is pretty much the end of my knowledge on the topic.

But since we're talking music and rip off, etc.

Does anyone remember VITAMIN Z YES, that's Z as in Zed not this 'Vitamin C' crap that is out. Ok, ok there's a tribute song for the Columbine students - the girl has no singing ability whatsoever but that's not my point. [Great backup singers though.]

The British musical group Vitamin Z came around in the early to mid- eighties [ok, I'm dating myself] and now Vitamin C - I don't know but I would have a problem with that if I were a member of Vitamin Z.

Hmmm, okay maybe this post falls more under the Mattel vs. Mattl and the Digitaldiva vs Digitaldivas topic.

Either way, if you're in the market for a happy happy British 80's type CD - I highly recommend VITAMIN Z.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I just wanted to point out that the argument of someone stealing the design of a website and someone downloading copyrighted MP3s isn't really the same thing. No one who downloads music is trying to pass it off as their own creation whereas someone who lifts a page design most likely is unless it's part of an obvious parody or something. The idea of the stealing is still there, but they're just totally different things.

And yes, I'm a music-stealer. But surprisingly (or not), I already own most of the songs I have on my computer in some way. I just like mp3s because I can make a big jumbled playlist instead of switching cds all the time.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

People on the Well have been arguing about this ad nauseum, and I care about as much as you do, Beth. I'm fairly sick of the whole issue.

But I must care a little because I also think it's stealing and I think Metallica is totally within their rights to sue over this.

As for them each having Lear jets, so what's the monetary level at which it becomes okay to steal from someone? That's what it comes down to.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I believe if you own the CD, you can own the MP3 without any problems or hassles or it being illegal. Its when you start transfering it to other people, making copies of the cd..etc. Like making a mixed cd from songs you already own is okay, as long as you don't distribute it.

I have mixed reactions to MP3's. I want to support the bands I like. But I don't always trust them and don't wanna waste money either. There should be some sort of happy medium that is achievable. Either way the record companies will hate it. Perhaps someone could come up with timer for an you have 1 day, then it won't work anymore, like many shareware programs have. Or maybe that you could download the mp3 at a cheaper cost than the cd. Either way its a tough call.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I disagree, Stef; I acknowledge that there is a difference there, but I think it all boils down to the same thing -- people who do not own the intellectual property subverting the artist's right to do what he or she wants to do with his or her own property.

I think trouble has raised an interesting issue; I've been involved in a discussion of "copyleft" in the past. I think it's interesting to picture a world in which you don't own the product of your imagination; I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with that concept. Of course, that's not the world we live in. Presumably, if we did live in a world like that, we'd also have to provide some means of subsidizing artists so they could continue to practice their art even though they wouldn't be able to make money off of it. Since we don't do that, I think we have to respect the artist's right to protect his or her property ... even if the artist owns a Lear jet.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I believe there are two undisputable facts here: - The unauthorized sharing of copyrighted songs via MP3 or whatever is illegal and wrong.
- Metallica has every right to protect their copyright.

Those facts are self-evident.

The question is whether or not Metallica is right to take this particular approach to protecting their copyright. People seem to think that napster shouldn't be responsible for waht it is distributing, since they do not control the content.

I disagree.

Napster provides a service which has a legitimate use. Obviously it would be wrong to ban the service outright. It is not unreasonable, however, to require Napster to take workable precautions to prevent the use of its product for illegal activity, and from what I understand Napster agrees with this position.

The point is rather moot, however, since new technologies are emerging allowing encrypted files to be shared. Once a file is encrypted, there is now way to know what is in the file unless you have the key.

This pandora's box has been opened, and nobody has a way to shut it again. I've actually given the matter some thought, because if one could find a practical and effective solution to this problem one could make oneself very rich.

The music industry is going to become vastly different in the near future. There are many ways for bands to make money besides selling CDs. (Concert tours, for example.) And really, is a world in which bands make music solely for the joy of making music such a bad world to envisage?

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Actually Dave, bands don't make money from touring. The sole purpose of mounting a concert tour is to sell albums.

And as far as a world where people made music for free? Sure, that would be great for everyone except the musicians, somehow I think they'd like to be able to eat.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

While touring is often done to shore up album sales it is not true that bands do not make money off of touring. They makes tons of money. According to this source In a standard concert performance contract, about 85 percent of the net profit after expenses goes to the artist, with the promoter collecting the remaining 15 percent for assuming the risk of putting the show on. In some cases, the artist might reap as much as 95 percent.

Many popular artists make many millions of dollars off of their tours.

Also, there are plenty of bands that do not even have an album, and make all their money by performing.

As for musicians having to eat, well, fame is a pretty powerful motivator. There plenty of musicians who put food on the table with side jobs. In fact, that's how pretty much every one of them starts out.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I have seen this debate um...everywhere...

But here are my 2cents (in canadian funds)

There a lot of people ripping on Metalica for wanted to protect their art. A lot of those people doing the ripping are the same people who are outraged to see a web site copied, or digital art stolen..but somehow, because Metallica made pots of money off of their art, it somehow becomes a bad thing for them to protect it.

What I am sorry to see is that, instead of finding a new way of doing things, Metallica is forcing new technology to adhere to some pretty luddite lawmaking.

I use Napster all the time. Arrest me. Or, better yet, find a way to distribute mp3's in a way that allows the artist to make some $$ for their work. I would pay for a service like that. Or a service that allowed me to buy a cd filled with mp3's in a certain genre, made to order, or downloaded to order.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

"net profit after expenses" Dave, and expenses, especially for a major tour, are very, very high. I have worked on several huge tours, and believe me there are ridiculous amounts of money squandered.

I have a number of close friends who are working musicians. Some of them support themselves with their music and some of them have day jobs. The common denominator is this - they are not getting rich from touring,in most cases they do it because they love to play.

In addition, several of my friends are quite well known, and you can download all of their songs on Napster. Believe me, they are not thinking about the joy of their art when they watch their album sales nose dive - they are mad as hell that anyone with a computer can effectively steal from them.

I am willing to concede that there are exceptions to every situation, but to return the focus of this discussion to it's original subject: downloading an MP3 is stealing. period.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I couldn't agree more, Kristin. It is amazing to me how vehement people get about copyright infringement when somebody steals their web page design that took them "hours", given that they almost always have stolen software loaded on their hard drive (photoshop being a prime candidate).


-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I think "almost always" is going too far, Dave. I know quite a few people who use Paintshop, even though it sucks, because it's affordable and doesn't require them to use bootlegged software. (The last time I checked out Photoshop, it was just under $1,000. I think Paintshop is $90 or something, and there is a shareware or freeware version, I believe.)

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Oops. I stand corrected. Photoshop is a bargain at $609, and Paintshop is $99. Jasc no longer lists a freeware or shareware version. (I also note that there is no upgrade option for registered users of older versions, which is annoying as hell and means I probably won't upgrade to version 6 any time soon ... but version 5 is paid for.)

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Whoops! I forgot to link that article.

Well, money squandered or not, the point is bands can, and do, make money touring. There's also merchandising, airplay royalties, etc.

Please note I'm not offering this up as an excuse for stealing their songs. I do think, however, that the album as we know it is dying. Metallica is not going to achieve anything with this lawsuit, except perhaps to earn the public's ill will.

This has been coming for some time now. There's no turning back the clock. The digital revolution is in full swing. Resistance is futile. They simply have to find a way to make money in this new environment. (I happen to think selling songs cheaply via the internet is the way to go. I'd rather pay a small fee than hunt around for a free and illegal download.)

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Actually, I just realized how ironic this is... just the night before last I wanted to listen to Bob Seger's Turn The Page and tried to find myself a copy. All I could find was Metallica's version. Heh. (As an aside: I hate it when somebody does a terrible remake of a song and it gets tons of airplay.)

On the software issue, well, I happen to be somebody who won't use pirated s/w as a matter of principle. I have yet to meet anyone who shares that view.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

You don't get out much, do you, Dave? I know plenty of people (mostly programmers of some sort) who share that view. Well, okay, a few of them except Microsoft from the equation.

But I share that view, as well, and in fact I cringe when someone offers me their copy of Photoshop or whatever. I'm not always perfect about deleting shareware that I'm not planning to buy, but if I'm goin to actually use it, I pay the fee.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Yes, Beth, I don't get out much. I'm a loser and spend most of my time at home masturbating. You've figured me out.

Once in a while I show up at work, though, where there are quite a few programmers. Nobody cares about copyright for their personal computers, which surprises me. (It's a big deal at work, though. Unauthorized use of s/w is stricly forbidden.)

Maybe people down there just don't want to risk using up any of their three strikes...

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

You know very different programmers than I know, Dave. You wacky Canadians.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Canadians: if the cops show up we're busted for the grow room anyway. So we might as well have an illegal descrambler, pirated s/w, and a MP3 collection.


-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Sarah said: "If artists can't make money doing it, many of them won't be able to continue making music."

Well, I'd feel a lot more sorry for some artist on a small independent label who's probably making little or no money anyway instead of some major-label multi-millionaire. If illegal MP3 trading was taking revenue away from small outfits who were being visibly hurt by it, they'd have my sympathies. And if I really thought Metallica were going to become a bunch of penniless homeless bums thanks to Napster, they'd have my sympathies too. And to be even more honest, if Metallica were made so poor by Napster that they just couldn't go on making music, I wouldn't mind too much. I'd just stick my double vinyl "And Justice For All" on the turntable and try not to think of the corporate bores they'd turned into a decade later.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

I feel like Napster contains 500,000 songs, but 450,000 of them are "Stairway to Heaven." For most of the artists I like, Napster has only the most popular singles, if anything, and the copies are often incomplete. If I want to hear them at any length, I still have to buy the CD, and I do, and usually I want the CD for the cover art and the liner notes and the portability (my MP3s are at work, and I'm not going to be able to put them on floppies and take them with me). Perhaps this isn't such an issue with the younger generation who don't remember big record albums with yards of liner notes on the inside sleeve.

As for the rare cover and concert versions that are making the Napster rounds, let this be a wake-up message to the industry: People can't get enough of cover versions and alternate versions. There is a reason Mirrorball and Apocalyptica are bestsellers. Scratch that itch.

A lot of my MP3s come from other MP3 services or band homepages and are legal. It's the easiest way to try out new artists who are never going to get any radio play outside their hometowns. Webradio is also great for learning about new stuff - check out Live 365 which has among other things half a dozen stations from former Yugoslavia and one that just plays Tuvan throat music.

The MP3 with a time limit already exists. It's called Liquid Audio, I think.

Micropayments for downloads are coming sooner than you think. There is at least one software package that will use your mobile phone for authorization and put the payments on your phone bill.

Yes, I know, these are rationalizations and I'm a copyright felon. But I've been on the other side. I've done a fair amount of writing that I don't own the rights to, some of which has been reprinted for profit by the people who do. Early on I came to think of artistic control as a rare thing, and my coping strategy is to channel Richard Stallman and say consumer control is a good thing. Let a thousand Xerox machines reproduce.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

I don't care about the whole thing, one way or the other. Outlaw Napster, I could give a shit. Don't outlaw it, that's fine. Whatever. Either way, I don't have any interest in using it.

HOWEVER, there's a fairly funny anti-Metallica cartoon here:

If you've ever seen an interview with Lars Ulrich, you'll see the humor.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

Copyright isn't necessarily the best way to ensure one keeps on having working artists around, but I can't think of a better replacement, and as a writer I really wouldn't want to give it up. Right now there's a big dispute going on between freelance journalists and many of the large newspaper chains, because the newspapers want to reproduce the writers' work on the web for no additional fee, and often ask for rights to the work in perpetuity, in any medium, even those not yet invented, and won't hire you if you won't sign their rights-grabbing contracts. This is a problem. Copyright law is the only thing preventing these papers from going ahead and reprinting without remuneration.
Before we get rid of copyright, I'd want to see some replacement that ensures that creators can continue to get paid in a fair way, and a way which is related somehow to the consumption of their work (i.e. Metallica deserves to make more money than Sloan because more people listen to their work). Ideally, the consumers of the specific work are the ones paying for its creation - and I just can't think of a better way to do this than through a royalty system.
By no means are royalties and copyrights dependent ideas, but if you get rid of copyright I don't see a way to enforce royalty payment, and I can't think of a better method of payment than royalties (though royalties sure could be higher). In the meantime, let's not dismantle the whole concept of copyright just because it's easy to get away with theft.

Joanne (Parietal Pericardium)

-- Anonymous, May 12, 2000

While Metallica might have been a little heavy-handed (they're heavy metal musicians, whaddya expect?) I think they did the right thing. A few people above said their sympathies would be more with small-time artists who stand to lose a much greater portion of their potential revenues than a big name ... but it's the big names who have the clout and the deep pockets to protect the rights of all artists. People who make a living through creative work have the right to keep control over their work and not let it be given away ... but if someone with some degree of recognition hadn't spoken up, who else would have been able to?

-- Anonymous, May 13, 2000

What seems to piss Metallica off the most is that they think their "art" is being corrupted by mp3. Lars has been quoted as saying "It is sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is." If it's not a commodity then why do they think people should pay for their CDs?

-- Anonymous, May 13, 2000

Fact 1: I love music. I adore music. I'm also very particular about music. When I come across a song that I like, I want to own it in the best possible format available, preferrably including the artwork that comes with it. In that respect, cd's are better than mp3's. Besides, most of the stuff that I like isn't even available on mp3 unless I make my own, personal copies - and I'm not about to distribute those to anyone.

Fact 2: Through websites like I've come across lots of lesser known artists I would never have heard about otherwise, and yes, I've downloaded lots of mp3's from these artists, because their music isn't available on cd in this part of the world. And I'm sorry that these artists have got nothing to show for the fact that I'm enjoying their work. I'd buy their cd's if I had the chance, but the fact that they're all independent artists with limited distrubution networks and the fact that there's an ocean between us complicates things a little. In that respect, mp3's are better than nothing at all.

Fact 3: Metallica cheesed out after the 'Master of Puppets' album. They went from 'most innovative metal band of the 80's' to 'most generic riff machine of the 90's', and I wouldn't want to be caught dead owning anything they released after that album, no matter what format it comes in.

Fact 4: I did download a Plant & Page bootleg in mp3 format once, because it was the only way I could get my hands on it. Besides, I paid good money for every official album these guys have ever made.

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

`Bronfman is historically wrong in his assumption that piracy is un-American. For virtually the whole of the 19th century, the American publishing industry flouted international copyright law.'

A piece from the Guardian in Britain about MPs, Napster, and so on, with a historical perspective:

Free lunch with the net bandits

-- Anonymous, June 05, 2000

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