For many years the record companies have fixed record prices to avoid competing with each other and to maximize their profits. Currently, the record companies are collaborating in order to force Napster to shut down. The record companies are claiming that Napster is breaking copyright laws. Napster is a peace of software available for free on the Internet, which allows you to download almost any song you can think of. All you need to get Napster is a computer and Internet connection, the faster the better. Should people feel sympathy for the record companies because of the supposed starvation as a result of Napster file sharing?
Or should the sympathy lie with the users of Napster? Let us examine who is trying to shut down Napster and for what reasons. Let us also determine the reasons why people want Napster to remain open. The Record Company is strongly opposed to Napster for one reason and one reason only. Apparently, the record companies are losing more and more of the market to Napster file sharing on the Internet. Record companies justify their lawsuits against Napster with the line so often used in press conferences, Napster breaks copyright laws. This phrase seems like a legitimate argument.
One could understand the reasons for feeling this way. For simplicity sake, we will use Dave as an example. Dave developed a product and sells it, and, at first, his product does very well. His product is then duplicated again and again by a person who purchased his product. Dave watches his sales plummet and, of course, feels cheated. Should Dave have the right to sue the person who copied his product? Most people would say yes. This is the argument the record companies are making in defense of the lawsuits against Napster. However, let us look deeper into the matters of sales within the record companies.
Record companies say they are suffering as a result of Napster. The price of a CD has stayed the same for many years as far as I can remember. Why would the record companies not raise the price of a CD if their profits were dropping? Also, the sales of records from1999 to 2000 have actually increased 2%. Why would there be an increase in sales if, the record companies claim, Napster is hurting their business and taking up some of the market? I am sure if Napster was good for business in the record companies eyes, the record companies would not be complaining about copyright infringement laws being broken.
The truth is that the record companies feel their profits would accelerate with the shut down of Napster and sales would increase further after. Now, if Dave noticed an increase in profits he would assume that the duplication of his product was not hurting his business; rather he might feel it was helping advertise his new product. However, this is just a theory. The record companies seem to feel the opposite way. I think it is safe to say that the record companies have formed an alliance against Napster because of the greed which powers the American economy.
Just because the record companies want Napster shut down, do not assume that the band does as well. Some bands are against Napster, two major examples being Dr. Dre and Metallica. Could this be because they hold major shares in record companies and would benefit directly from increased profits, or because they do not want people listening to their music? The reality is that the vast majority of bands are pro Napster, as they feel it spreads their music all over the world and helps their band make a name for themselves. After all isn t that what music is all about, having your music heard?
You may be asking why wouldn t bands be anti Napster when they get all that money from record sales. The answer is that bands receive less then 10% of the sales for the album, while the record companies receive over 60%. Large shares of record profits would explain why the record companies have much more of an interest in Napster than the bands do. The bands revenue comes mostly from live shows, appearances and endorsements. Therefore, the bands would support Napster to try and spread their music and gain a fan base. For example, when the lead singer of Kid Rock was asked how he felt about the Napster debate he replied, Why should I care?
I am rich. Also, the band Rage Against the Machine actually publicly asked fans not to buy their new album Renegades. They suggested that the user download it from Napster instead. Rage is a band, which, if they could be heard by as many citizens of the world as possible, would feel they have achieved some of their goals as a band. Rage Against the Machine is a very political band and are not hesitant to voice their opinions about the greed of corporate America and the record business. Rage Against the Machine also has detailed instructions on their website on how to get back on Napster if you have been banned due to Dr. Dre or Metallica, which many people have.
The bands not only support Napster because it personally benefits the majority of them, but because most bands play music to be heard and the more people hear their music the better, which is what music is all about. The interest of the band is not based only on money, as is the case with the record companies, which control them. It seems this essay has talked about every group involved except those who matter most in this debate, as have most other forms of coverage on this topic.
The people who use Napster are by far in favor of keeping it open. User support for Napster could be for the reason that the user gets free music. Also, support for Napster could be because this subject contains issues, which relate to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Also, the user feels that he/she is breaking no laws when using Napster since no one is making money when a song is downloaded. Should a person be charged with copyright infringement when recording a song from the radio, or burning a CD of all their favorite songs?
There has been no discussion of shutting down radio or banning CD burners so why is Napster so different? Napster users download files from one another for personal use. The files are not packaged and sold on the open market nor do these files in anyway compete with the record companies products in stores. It is a person s right to have access to music on the Internet as they do with information. People have the right to listen music of their choice as much as they have the choice to read and watch whatever they want.
Should we begin charging people to watch Much Music or to listen to the radio? Where would the line be drawn? The record companies have maintained fixed prices on albums for years to avoid competition with one another and now that they have some competition they are crying foul. It is the responsibility of the record company to change their ways of selling music to stay alive in the world today. The public should not feel sorry for them. Record companies are a multi billion-dollar industry with increasing profits. They are still trying to grab more and more of the market place.
If Napster shuts down, what is next? Radio? Television? Censorship of the Internet? Is the public just going to stand by and watch these large corporations toss a blanket over the people s heads and raid their pockets? I feel it is up to the consumer to decide if he or she wishes to support the record companies and other large corporations; however, I will never buy another CD for the rest of my life as long as record companies continue to squeeze every penny from the music loving public like a sponge and continue to ignore the real intention of music.