March 1, 2001

The Daze Rant

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Last Wednesday, after pretending to be studious by attending all my classes, I came back to my apartment for some much needed R & R. I took a quick shower, and headed to my room to fire up my Napster account.

Unfortunately, as the familiar window popped up, I was greeted with an irritating beep and an error message that said something to the effect of, “Access denied by Jeff Buckley.” After a few seconds and some confusion (after all, this singer/songwriter died a few years ago), I was reffered to another website operated by Napster.

However, unlike the usual screen filled with file names promising the unedited/live/bootlegged/or rare versions of virtually every song ever recorded, I was greeted with a little page entitled “The Counter Notification Form.”

This little dandy required me to disclose my email address, my user information and sign my electronic signature to a statement that says something along the lines of: “I, Nate Brown, accept full responsibilty for any impending lawsuit…blah, blah, blah.”

Apparently, record companies have not only taken Napster itself to court, but have actually used this online community to their own ends. Though record companies do not have access to the email addresses that correspond to users’ screenames, any chum can fire up a PC and download Napster. So, what’s to stop record companies from doing so?

All they need to do is use the system’s search engine, snag some screenames, report them to Napser and voila, the user gets blocked from Napster and threatened with a lawsuit.

What this means for those of us with material copyrighted by Dr. Dre and Metallica (and apparently the estate of Jeff Buckley), is that we may soon find ourselves accused of copyright infingment by the companies themselves.

Apparently, the only people truly angry over Napster’s existence are these record companies. As far as many students are concerned, Napster is a staple of college life. And only a comparatively small handful of actual musicians have publicly denounced the service.

In fact, there are many artists, including Thom Yorke, Dave Matthews, Madonna and more, who have all spoken positively of the company.

But just as Napster itself started as a small trend and grew exponentially, I fear that more artists might soon get wise and hop on the Lets-Threaten-To-Sue-Our-Fans bandwagon.

So before taking Napster’s advice to “Join the largest, most diverse online community of music lovers in history … avaliable for Windows and Mac,” you may want to consider the possibilty of a lenghty lawsuit brought to you by none other than the artists we admire.

For my part, I hope the estate of Jeff Buckley does sue me. With a little luck, I could make the evening news, land some endorsements, get some grassroots followers who would faithfully picket outside of my trial chanting “Free Nate,” and twenty years down the road, maybe even make an episode of VH1’s Where Are They Now?

Archived article by Matt Chock