Re: Napster: stealing another's vs. giving away one's own

From: David Goodman <dgoodman_at_Princeton.EDU>
Date: Mon, 5 Jun 2000 22:15:58 +0100

Reposted from liblicense-l with the permission of the author:

From: Richard Jasper <>
Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 18:03:58 PM
Subject: Re: Napster, Planned Obsolescence & Control

A little bit of background on me:
I've been a librarian for 15 years, almost all of that time having been spent
in acquisitions and collection management in large research libraries. I've
been dealing with licensing agreements for electronic materials since, oh, I
dunno, about 1992. I've attended a Lolly Gassaway class on copyright (ACRL /
Birmingham, circa 1992) and the ARL workshop licensing electronic materials
(Chapel Hill, 1998?) I'm a firm believer in the value of and need for
intellectual property rights; I'm also thoroughly aware of the fact that
licensing agreements can expand or contract those "rights" based on the
mutual agreement of two or more parties.

So what have I been doing for the past week?

Playing with Napster and loving it. It's too cool -- in three days I've
learned more about the music I grew up with than in the previous 42 years of
my life. I've never been able to put lyrics and song titles together with
artists and, now, thanks to the sheer number of songs that have been archived
(others would say "pirated") by music afficionados around the world, I'll be
able to say "Ah, ha! That was the Hollies!" when _Cherrie-Anne_ pops up on
the radio.

As a librarian, I suppose I should be ashamed of my enthusiasm for Napster.
In fact, I'm ecstatic. And, because I'm a librarian, the dichotomy has me
thinking about possible solutions. Napster (the idea, at the very least)
isn't going to go away and if it does Gnutella is waiting in the wings. Nor
do I want it to go away -- would that we had something as easy to use for
medical literature!

Still, how is the creator of the intellectual property to be recompensed? I
don't want people to stop making and selling new music, even though more has
already been recorded than I'll ever be able to listen to.

Which reminds me of things like the 30-day free trial and planned
obsolescence. Publishers long ago figured out that if you give someone
something for free for 30 days chances are good that they will still want it
-- and pay for it -- on Day 31. The trick (for the publisher) is making sure
that you get it back if the customer decides s/he doesn't want to pay for it.

So what if Napster invented a little program (a virus?) that attached itself
to every mp3 file downloaded with its software which said the following:

<Thanks for using our software to sample the world's recorded music. The
<file(s) you downloaded will self-destruct in 30 days unless you agree
<pay $10 to the Napster / Music Industry Royalty Fund. You will be
<prompted at the end of 30 days regarding whether you want to retain the
<file for the specified fee.

Is it really that farfetched? I don't think so. Would there be a whole slew
of technical obstacles to overcome? Of course. Would the music publishers
howl? Most certainly.

On the other hand...

I'm beginning to think that internet and more specifically the world wide web
really is the death knell for control of information, at least control in the
old sense of "you can't have it unless I give it to you." Come hell or high
water, people are going to get electronic information, whether it's recorded
music or medical literature, regardless of whether the author of that
information wants them to have it. The only way it *won't* be distributed is
if it's never committed to electronic form in the first place. The question
will be how to persuade people to pay for what they can freely obtain. One
way to do that is to cheapen the value of what's freely obtainable (it falls
apart in 30 days) and offer them something relatively permanent in exchange.

I think we as librarians are facing a similar end to control. We've spent the
past 150 years advancing the idea that information could be controlled, in
the sense of identified, classified, cataloged, indexed, annotated, etc.
Until the web came along, this mission was still at least theoretically
possible, no matter how far behind we might have been at time. With half a
billion pages on the web and an unfathomable number of individual files
sitting on servers, this idea no longer seems plausible to me. We're NOT
going to be able to control it, in the sense of being able to classify,
catalog, index or annotate more than the smallest fraction of it.

What does all of this mean for licensing? Or for those of us who have spent a
goodly portion of our lives building collections and the bibliographic
edifices which support them? Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is
that any sense of accomplishment I have with respect to licensing -- and
we've made a LOT of progress since the days when we were arguing with
publishers regarding whether we were licensing materials to run on individual
computers or within individual buildings -- pales to nothing when confronted
with the possibilities of Napster.

Yours in licensing...

Richard P. Jasper, M.Ln.
Assistant Director for Collections
Houston Academy of Medicine- Texas Medical Center Library

David Goodman
Biology Librarian, and
Co-Chair, Electronic Journals Task Force
Princeton University Library
phone: 609-258-3235            fax: 609-258-2627
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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