The legal issue of mp3 distribution seems pretty clear cut to me. People distributing mp3’s of music recordings of which they own copies (but of which they do not hold the copyright) are breaking the law. Both Napster and are pushing the envelope of copyright law, and will probably win the suits currently being brought against them by the RIAA, albeit not without some adaptation on their part. In the case of Napster (innovative technology? give me a break), they will have to comply with their own terms and ban the users distributing pirated music. If they are unable to do so, well, that’s a whole ‘nother problem.

The trouble is, this is just a distraction. Basically, networks allow the sharing of files. The internet allows practically anyone to transfer digital content – legally or otherwise. Work it through, people: With copyright no longer enforceable and no longer providing revenue protection for the recording industry, they’re going to move on. No more CDs or video tapes. Even HDCD and DVD formats won’t survive the great internet bandwidth breakthrough of insert_date_here.  Pretty soon you’ll be listening to your music by subscription, paying by the listen.

Or not. If you do not want the product of your creativity prirated and distributed on the ‘net, you can always sell your material in a non-digital format. Those of you how have hoarded your vinyl 12″ albums, insistent that the sound quality inherent in the grooves really was “better than CD” can breath a sigh of relief. Yes, you really were right all along. Vinyl is better. We’ll all be buying the 21st century equivalent of collectible gatefold 12″ albums (groovy cover artwork, dude).

How will garage bands be able to make a living and sell their product when as soon as they get popular (assuming they are any good), their self-produced CD’s are ripped and freely distributed? Gee – I guess they could try and get signed to a record label and get their music on the future proprietary pay-per-listen streaming audio servers. Some things don’t change no matter how hard you try.

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