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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 10:25 GMT
Is Napster right to charge users?

Napster's chief executive Hank Barry has confirmed that users will soon be charged a membership fee.

Mr Barry said that royalties are to be paid to artists whose material is swapped over the internet with the help of Napster software.

The music industry has felt threatened by the number of people downloading music from the net for free. Traditional sales of music have fallen as a result.

But is it right to start charging net music users now? How much would you pay to get your music?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

As soon as any fee comes into effect, some other company will be quick to take its place

Greg Fergadiotis, Greece
I won't comment on whether it's right for Napster to charge for any downloads. I will say that without a shadow of a doubt, as soon as any fee comes into effect, some other company will be quick to take itsplace.
Greg Fergadiotis, GREECE

This is very bad for the music industry. Napster is the best way for me to get turned on to new artists, and to hear more songs by artists I like. If I like what I hear, I go out and buy the CD so that I can hear the music in it's original high-fidelity recording on my home stereo.
Jason L. Cook, USA

The Decision Hank Barry to levy a charge upon Napster users is perhaps a clever ploy to buy time for the existing Napster Members. He as an intelligent Computer user knows that as soon as a charge is levied he will lose upwards of 90% of his user base. An earlier comment above explains the existence of MP3 swapping before Napster and it will continue with or without it.
Richard, UK / USA

I agree with Al Priest. I've downloaded many mp3's from Napster with very few of them being of substantial quality. All too often the ends of songs were not there, 'blips' could be heard on some and others were of such poor quality they weren't even worth listening to. Given that the service is unreliable I certainly wouldn't pay for it, besides, if I liked any of the songs I went out and bought the album so, the groups actually do benefit from it.
James, England

Personally I wouldn't use Napster if they made it chargeable - but many people still would. It would be interesting to see if the cost of purchasing CD's would go down? I doubt it, only last week France announced that they were going to start putting a tax on blank CD's again to compensate the recording companies for loss of revenue.
Budgie, UK

No chance of me paying for Napster. It's the worst piece of software I've ever used.
Douglas, UK

Charging people to use Napster is just wrong

Leo Spesshardt, Ireland
When bands like Metallica are fighting against the likes of Napster, it makes you wonder. Firstly, those guys (and many other bands) got famous through bootlegs of their albums being distributed all over the world - which were free. Secondly, what are those artists protecting? More than likely, the very same people who use services like Napster will end up buying the original CD of that particular artist anyway. Plus there's the added attraction of going to a live show of theirs. So either way it's a win-win situation for the artists involved. Charging people to use Napster is just wrong. It just serves to add to the greed of the major artists and also adds even more money to the coffers of the huge multi-national record companies.
Leo Spesshardt, Ireland

Considering the plight of upcoming artists, it's a difficult decision. An up-and-coming group may be able to reach larger amounts of people through Napster, but also will lose large amounts in royalties when people start downloading the MP3 instead of buying the single. Also, with all the free music the 57 million users have already downloaded, I think it would be only fair to have them pay a reasonable fee. Look at everything they've already obtained for absolutely nothing!
Chris Weatherstone, Canada

Unless Napster guarantees a minimum quality of recording then why should you pay?

Al Priest, England
Unfortunately most MP3s are such poor quality that they don't reproduce well at high volume on decent hi-fi equipment. Unless Napster guarantees a minimum quality of recording then why should you pay? If you're serious about music, you'll be serious about paying for a quality version - and that means an original.
Al Priest, England

The RIAA has stated that they are protecting the Artist, when in fact they have a proven track record of just the opposite. Exploiting artists for their own gain. This is not a matter of supporting the artist. Any money that we pay to Napster or similar services is not going back to the artist, its going back to the "Big 5" where the artist is typically one of the last people to reap any benefit or financial gain from an endeavour of this type.
Sean, USA

Napster provides a facility to listen to music and make your own mind up whether you like it or not. If you do, you can buy. If not, you can delete it. Napster should not be closed down!
John Laughlin, Scotland

I will never buy a CD for $15.00 when I can download it for free

Ron, USA

I will never buy a CD for $15.00 when I can download it for free and burn it for about twenty cents.
Ron, USA

The recording industry's lawsuit wasn't about paying artists for their work. It was about they themselves getting paid for the artist's work. I firmly believe in paying musicians for their efforts. However, seeing as how the artist sees only a fraction of a penny for each album sold, I will never buy another one again. Napster want to charge? Fine. I'll pay if over 50% of the fees go to the artists I listen to. Otherwise, I'll use opennap.
Eric Jones, United States

You wouldn't visit Amazon's site and expect them to give you books and videos for free would you

B Maguire, UK
Of course he has a right to make people pay. Not because I believe any of the bands or artists deserve any of the profits -no. They receive enough money and glory in life already. No, he deserves to make money from his bright idea. I'm a software engineer, and if I come up with a clever software-based idea that allows people to do things they want to do, then I deserve to be paid for making it possible. You wouldn't visit Amazons site and expect them to give you books and videos for free would you!
B Maguire, UK

Some of us have been gathering MP3 tracks for free across the internet long before Napster came along. Napster made this process convenient and usable for the barely computer literate. This is the beauty of Napster. The cat's out of the bag and from this point forward some of us will always be downloading music for free but it would be a shame (and an injustice) to exclude these individuals from the process.
Sean, USA

If they are going to start charging for downloads of music from Napster then I think there need to be a big shake down, either in Napster or on another site. It should be split into three different areas. 1) Area that allows new budding artist to upload their music which we can download for free. 2) Area for back catalogue music that hardly costs any money at all to download. 3) Area that allows you to download the latest chart music, which can first listen to in Radio quality (as we all can hear this music for free on the radio), then you can have an option to download a high quality version for a price (1-2).
Andrew Scotford, UK

There are many alternatives already. FTP works great thanks, on the basis of if I upload one of my mp3's to you, I can have 5 back. It rapidly increases everyone's music library and it's free. Napster isn't the be all and end all. The cost of CD's is though.
Alex Banks, Wales, living in Sweden

I know I'll stop using it as soon as I've found an alternative

Dave Russell, UK
The whole Napster idea was based around a 'community' of free file sharing. Making people pay destroys that 'community'. I know I'll stop using it as soon as I've found an alternative.
Dave Russell, UK

I do not think Napster should charge users. It is just fine how it is - music downloaded from the Napster was after all just free publicity for artists. You get to know there music and go out to buy more for your collection anyway.
Adrian Kitson, Germany

People act as if record companies have been around since the dawn of civilization, and that without them, music would cease to exist. We all know that record companies are a 20th century institution, and that music was around long before they showed up on the scene. I believe that if record companies and their employees were to vanish off the face of the earth tomorrow, musicians will still continue on.
Tom Amyotte, Canada

Pay to use Napster? Are you stark raving mad?

Jon Dark, UK
Pay to use Napster? Are you stark raving mad? The foundation of the net is that information can be obtained for free. When a fee is introduced, then a way to circumvent this will soon be found (anyone heard of Napigator?). I laugh in the faces of those who will pay a monthly fee. If we are all honest, we all want if for free regardless of its implications. PPl wont stop writing music, money will be made in other ways, of this you can be sure.
Jon Dark, UK

The web allows musicians to bypass record companies. This will cut their profits hard
Domini Connor, UK

Like radio, Napster should pay royalties, but through advertising, not through user fees. It can be a two-way street. Bands and record companies can upload their 'product' to a service like Napster, where they get free access to listeners who want to sample their songs. They in return, offer the music to the MP3 server for a very low fee which can be easily covered through moderate advertising. This way, everyone wins.
Bren Delfino, Hong Kong

Nothing is free. If Napster wants to charge for access, it's their right. It's also the right of musicians to sue Napster for a percentage.
Andrew Hoover, USA

Napster might have to charge a fee, but this will dramatically cut down the number of users. What the record companies fail to realise is that they may close Napster, but there will always be places to download the music for free.
Nathaniel, Canada

Napster has become respectable and this has put the nails in it's own coffin

Wayne McDonough, UK
Napster has become respectable and this has put the nails in it's own coffin. The idea has become bigger than one organisation and users will just turn to alternative 'free' download sites.
Wayne McDonough, UK

I just don't think that Napster keeps its users away from CD stores. Most people only use it to get funny or rare songs, it's too expensive to make records out from the net, as well as making records from radio, and people know it. Even though I shall pay to keep on using it, knowing that my money go to big 'bloodsucking' recording companies for a stupid reason drives me mad.
Davi Lima, Brazil

If something is that valuable to you, you'll pay whatever it cost to obtain it. That goes for both the Artist and the consumer. Why would I, as a music lover, demand that Artist's work for free? If I enjoy it I should pay you for it. Or is that too simple?
Michael Allison, USA

I don't think Napster should charge. The music people are getting there share of the money. Someone goes out and buy the cds at ridiculous prices - so those people are getting there money. We are the ones who keep them in business. You would think they would give us some slack!
Kathy Messmer, USA

If people can't download free of charge, will they really go out and buy the CD?

Andy Millward, UK
The assumption made by the music industry is that by people downloading tracks from Napster or similar sites, that they are directly losing revenue. Not so: if people can't download free of charge, will they really go out and buy the CD? Maybe 10% of them! Two things need to happen here: Sure, Napster must charge a fee, but the music publishers must get real and charge the true value of the material, not what they feel the market will bear. A dose of competition from the Internet is exactly what music needs.
Andy Millward, UK

The reason people use Napster and other music-sharing software is because CDs are too expensive

David Glover, UK
The reason people use Napster and other music-sharing software is because CDs are too expensive. I would gladly pay a small monthly fee if it allowed me to download any particular track I like instead of having to buy an over-priced CD with potentially only a couple of tracks I will listen to. Soon, this will become the main way of purchasing music.
David Glover, UK

I cannot believe the cloud cuckoo land comments here. It is not just an artist who makes music, there are engineers, session musicians, writers etc. all who would like to be paid for their work and without whom there would be no music. Also take into account all the bands that fail which still have to be paid for. Sure CD's etc are too expensive but even if they did come down to US prices then it is certainly not the case that people would then be willing to pay as the largest number of people using Napster et al are living in the USA.
Phil Jeremy, UK

Speaking as one of the "56k" masses, myself and my friends use Napster to download individual tracks rather than whole albums. Wherever possible, if we find a good track, we will go out and buy the album (if it is still in print). That said, if the membership charge is not too high (10-20) then I wouldn`t mind paying it.
James Cross, UK

Although the Napster software is very good at what it does, people have been using it for quite some time for free and it will be very hard for Napster to extract money from the user-base. The main reason people use the software is because its so easy to get the tunes you like on the spur of the moment impulse listening and the fact that they didn't have to pay to get it in the first place. Say they do start charging, the userbase will go drastically down which in turn means less tunes available which in turn means the paying punters will not get the service that they have been used to
Roger Callan, UK

Steven Lockton, UK

Napster may be appeasing the record companies, but its users will just go where the free music is

Jamie Crick, Ireland
Whatever the ethical/legal implications of Napster, the fact is that there are plenty of other Napster-type services that won't be charging (e.g. Gnutella, iMesh, etc), and unlike Napster can't be regulated because their set up makes that impossible. By charging its users, Napster may be appeasing the record companies, but its users will just go where the free music is.
Jamie Crick, Ireland

Oh dear big business doesn't have a clue, does it? People pirate music because it is too expensive. Give us similar or cheaper prices than America and watch the piracy trickle away.
Terry Eden, UK

That's just fine, but I'll be using someone else's search engine for free

G.M, France
I've already downloaded several thousand MP3 files from Napster. There are only a few new tracks here and there that I'll need to download in the future. I'll probably be able to go ahead and download them somewhere else (Napster is not the only service!). If Napster charges users for the service that's just fine, but I'll be using someone else's search engine for free. Perhaps Napster should pay the royaltieses directly themselves and make revenue from advertising?
G.M., France

If net music is charged, people will start to 'burn' cd's. That would be a lot worse for the industry than downloading a song or two for free on the net.
Susan D'Souza, USA

This is the only way for the copyright holder to get paid

Daniel Bouhs, Germany
Of course it is right to charge users. This is the only way for the copyright holder to get paid Personally, there are two ways I would pay for: Monthly charging for a maximum of about 5$ or - for me the better version - for each song (about 0,5 to 1$). But the stability of downloading and the sound quality has to be guaranteed.
Daniel Bouhs, Germany

I don't feel that it is right to charge people for downloading music, its just ripping people off that way. And in regards to the traditional sales going down, if someone would take a notice the only bands that are complaining are the ones that aren't doing that well in the first place, it has nothing to do with Napster... no one wants their music at all...
Devon Clancy, Canada

Musicians and record labels deserve to get their fair (note the word fair) share of royalties and profit from their product. For too long a lot of fat cat execs have been creaming the money off the industry for too long. Any current deals will just be to maintain some form of status quo (as in old dying rock dinosaurs just like the band) for this small group who have continually strangled money out of the industry (the inheritors from the days when the mob controlled the industry). It would be best to legislate to control them and their powers and to free the artists and music professionals from the accountants and lawyers who kill the industry.
Martin Bentley, UK

If musicians are not properly compensated for their hard work, only a small percentage of those involved will actually reap rewards

Chris Cormier, Canada
Of course Napster should charge fees and pay the artists involved. If musicians are not properly compensated for their hard work, only a small percentage of those involved will actually reap rewards. Then, as only those with a huge operating budget can afford to take part in music, big business will creep in and real talent and innovation will be replaced by mass marketing campaigns. We sure don't want that to happen!
Chris Cormier, Canada

Well, in the long run many artists will not be able to make a living if they don't get paid for their efforts. As a result, I think they should be paid. Napster's continued popularity will be determined on the fees set. The law of diminishing returns will surely apply. The higher the charges, the less money will be made, as users will switch to other available services like Gnutela. Everyone is willing to pay a small fee, and if there are 57 million current users, even a fee on one penny per song will create a fortune. The question that exists now is "How greedy will the record executives be?"
Viktor, Finland

The music industry has always been a money spinner, never more so than in previous years where we have seen an explosion of talent less manufactured pre-pubescent teenagers onto the music scene. This presumably has come about because of the lucrative nature of mainstream music sales. If sales have dipped in recent years due to the popularity of downloading music from the net this may explain the disappointing performance of recently released albums from the Spice Girls, A1 and Billie Piper. In which case I can only protest that implementing a membership fee is a very bad idea!
Rebecca Southwell, UK

Lets re-align the cost of music and start getting value for money

Chris Brown, England
I agree 100% with the proposed charges. I know the music industry rips people off, but I think that this is a way that could re-balance the cost in favour of the user. We cannot expect to get everything for free! really don't think that the Napster issue would be a sore point if the UK had been paying 5 for a chart CD instead of 15. Lets re-align the cost of music and start getting value for money instead of 13 of our 15 going on a bit f plastic.
Chris Brown, England

I'm happy to pay for music if the money goes to the artists. But I greatly resent funding a notoriously filthy record industry making huge profits from rip-off CDs. It's no surprise that Napster has been such an astounding success story so far, and a small fee, supporting artists, would be fine in principle. But will people just use an alternative service, which are already becoming available?
Alastair Stevens, UK

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See also:

29 Jan 01 | Business
Napster confirms membership charge
29 Jan 01 | Business
Gates charts internet's future
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