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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
End of free music on the web?

Napster has agreed to become a distributor for the music industry's own online service, MusicNet.

The deal means that Napster has effectively stopped being the free music swapping service that made it famous.

Three months ago Napster was forced to abandon its free service after a US court ordered it to ban copyrighted music from its website.

There are other music and media swapping systems out there. But none of them have been able to match Napster for size and ease of use.

So is it the end of free music on the web? Or will other systems fill the vacuum left by Napster?

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

What is the difference between taping off the radio and downloading off Napster? With listening posts becoming less available, the public want to sample what they are buying before they fork out 13 for an overpriced CD.
Phil, UK

Music artists make enough money as it is

Roisin Macey, Sligo, Ireland
Music artists make enough money as it is. Not many people have Internet access and their music is still being bought. They're over reacting and just being selfish.
Roisin Macey, Sligo, Ireland

Don't the music companies get the fact that if they reduced the costs by lowering their huge profit margins then people wouldn't bother pirating music, videos, software etc? If they reduced the cost then people would pay for an original, they would sell more and still earn the same amount of profit.
James Saunders, England

I believe that copyright is used too often, and always for financial gain. The big record industry doesn't care if you already own the song, paid for it before and are now downloading it, they want you to pay for it, again and again and again. I understand that piracy is a problem, but the way the record association attacked Napster helped create an uprising of angered "netizens" so that even the mighty record industry will have no hopes of stopping all the new Napster wannabe's. In fact some peer-to-peer systems are larger than Napster and still growing.
Richard Lee, England

A CD sells at a certain price - people may want them cheaper, but then people want everything cheaper

Mark Harris, England
People talk about overpriced CD's and lack of availability in some countries re certain CD's. Firstly, a CD sells at a certain price, people may want them cheaper, but then people want everything cheaper. Save up! Secondly, if people in ie Indonesia cannot buy CD's in their own country and thus resort to Napster, surely they can instead log on to a shipping company, (of which there are many). It's just another cost-dodging excuse. Pay the price for good music. And as for 'teeny' bands, don't buy their albums, but give others the option.
Mark Harris, England

The fact that many people now have MP3 encoders and run FTP sites from home means that the number of MP3s available on the Net must be huge. Saying that shutting down Napster will prevent people from getting free music is like saying cutting a leaf off a tree will kill it.
Neil Anderson, Scotland

More real music and less of that produced rubbish such as Hearsay boy bands etc and I might start buying CDs instead of copying them and taking them back, I resent having to pay x amount of pounds to some huge wealthy company that only puts it back into teeny rubbish and cheaper goods for the American market.
Russ F, England

Napster opened the door. Just because Napster has ceased to be what it was does not mean that file sharing and peer to peer networking will stop. A previous comment from John in Texas suggested that ISPs could prevent usage of the Gnutella protocol by using firewalls. Ooops ! Gnutella can work on any port, including port 80 which is used for http. Think again John.
Graham Lenton, UK

The whole thing will continue but will get pushed a little further underground

Jeff Scholey, UK
It's not the end, it's only the beginning. The whole thing will continue but will get pushed a little further underground. Hopefully soon the record companies will get the message and stop ripping off the consumer with the outrageous prices they charge for CD's etc.
Jeff Scholey, UK

Even before Napster struck this new deal it's users had dropped by one third. There is absolutely no way that charging for songs is going attract more people, not when there are other alternatives better than Napster that provide free sharing of music. Only when the rest of the alternative companies are rooted out will people have no choice but to pay for their music.
Gaz, England

End of free Napster - no problem! With the growth in peer to peer networking (plus OpenSource versions like Freenet), free music has a great long term future.
Ian Dunn, UK

Napster: Thanks but no thanks. It has been 13 months since I bought an album and now I have three programs to download MP3's. Why should I pay Napster when I can get it for free? Music on the internet will be forever free. Unless the companies stop ripping us off, free music will shrink the sales. They're just taking as much as they can as long as they can, ignore them.
Alex K, Stafford, England

I think what Napster should have done was limit the quality of the files it indexed. In this way, it could have served just as a preview, try-before-you-buy service.
Chris, UK

I think the music should still be free

John Simeone, United Kingdom
I think the music should still be free. As the collections are already on the net and I am simply "visiting someone else's collection", why should I have to pay for something that's already copyright paid?
John Simeone, United Kingdom

Pandora's box has been opened....
Ken R., USA

Napster may have sold out and become legal, but many others will step in to take their place. I already know of six others where the interface is easier and the database more complete. If they do not increase their profile they will be there for ever.
Gerald, Scotland

The existence of Gnutella and programs such as BearShare will ensure that music distribution on the net continues - and there is nothing the music 'industry' can do about that!
John, USA

Napster was very useful

Name Here
It makes me angry because many CDs and cassettes aren't on sale in Indonesia. Napster was very useful.
Ahmad , Indonesia

The music companies are finally getting what is coming to them from years of gouging consumers for CDs and other digital media. The big few have lost control over their greedy domain and are beginning to see capitalism and free enterprise at its best. I will gladly pay for music, either in the store or off networks such as Napster; however, I won't be taken for a ride.
Paul Peters, Canada

There is a proliferation of efforts to circumvent so-called "intellectual property" laws on distribution

Toby Woodwark, UK
There is a proliferation of efforts to circumvent so-called "intellectual property" laws on distribution - Napster and Gnutella as well as the wider phenomena of film and software piracy. That these illegal trends are so popular merely reflects public distaste for the excessive, draconian copyright laws wielded by unelected quangos (the RIAA) and profiteering corporations (Microsoft, Disney, etc etc). Only when the disproportionate power these bodies have over the public's right to duplicate and share their property - in this case, digital property - is reined in, and profiteering is properly punished in the publishing sector, will the tension between the demands of publishers and the public be reduced.
Toby Woodwark, UK

Napster does not embody free music. It was simply the best-known site. Even people who had never seen an MP3 player had heard of Napster. What point exactly has the music industry proved? That it is naive? Free music is here to stay.
Luke, UK

Ok, fair enough, ban Napster - Napster can be stopped because it requires central servers. As soon as a system is developed where there is no need for a central server - you won't be able to stop it - however many laws or legislations are passed.
Phil, UK

What we need is actually a trimming down of the "scene"

Ralph, UK
Until the advent of recording, music was mostly free - at least popular music. Musicians were more buskers than businessmen. The true artists among them did it because not to do it was suicide, and quite a number of the best died poor or even destitute - so much for "royalties stimulating creativity". What we need is actually a trimming down of the "scene", until only those who care only about their music remain. Maybe descendants of Napster will help us there.
Ralph, UK

What I don't see here is a sensible compromise. Let people share files, but charge downloaders a small amount (say around 30p) per file. Keep track of the downloads and pay the whole fee to the artists. If the artists can't be traced, use it to cover the admin costs of the service. Up-front payment for 20-50 songs at a time would avoid having to handle lots of small payments.
Colin McKenzie, UK

I think it's right to stop this theft of people's hard work. Musicians and record companies should be allowed to earn a decent living like anyone else. If I walked into a shop and stole something - I'd be arrested. What's the difference with this Internet nonsense? Ban Napster I say and let's hear no more about it.
Richard Allen-Turner, England

If people were not overcharged for CD's then they would not turn to free alternatives

Darren, UK
If people were not overcharged for CD's then they would not turn to free alternatives. Having to buy an album to get one song you like which you cannot get as a single is another reason. The other free music swapping services have got wise and hold no information on what is being swapped between people and this is very hard to control by law. The music industry did too little too late.
Darren, UK

Napster may well be dead and buried but alternatives such as openNap and Gnutella are already taking its place. And file sharing with these services means much more than just sharing music files. Other initiatives such as freenet assure that there is no central indexing service for the files and that makes it next to impossible to find out who is hosting a shared file. The record companies had better re-evaluate both their price policies and their contracts with musicians because the era of music sharing nirvana hasn't finished. It is merely beginning...
Stylianos Papanastasiou, UK

Closing Napster will achieve nothing, because not many people are still using it. Other people have set up their own Napster servers now, which are almost as large as Napster was at its peak.
Jay Cornwall, England

People will still create MP3's, the actual 'free' music

Colin Cassidy, Scotland
Hardly, Napster was simply a means of transfering music from one machine to another. People will still create MP3's, the actual 'free' music. To transfer the files FTP, email and the web are still available. Once it is in digital format you cannot stop someone copying all the bits and bytes.
Colin Cassidy, Scotland

I strongly agree that record companies don't have complete control over artists. Also I think that people like Napster are exploiting these same artists. Hooray to Metallica, for seeing off Napster. I think every music "fan" who supported Napster should be ashamed; without royalties going to the artists who write and record music, who would we be left with? Rubbish like Hearsay and the Spice Girls. Because anyone who isn't in the pocket of big companies would be out of a job.
Daniel Wareing, England

If the greedy record companies priced CDs sensibly then we wouldn't bother spending hours downloading/burning etc. The fact that they put approx 1000% mark-up on a CD means they will now reap what they've sown. PS. The pop stars will have to start earning money at the level of the rest of us.. I've never seen one on a bike?
Graham Wilson, UK

People definitely should be rewarded for work that we like them to do

Robert, Netherlands
People definitely should be rewarded for work that we like them to do. The music distributors though are increasingly doing work we have no interest in, since we can do it a lot more efficiently ourselves over the Internet. Still they want us to pay for it. That is parasitic. And they have manipulated the laws so that they can force it upon us. That is piracy. Please, government, realize that music is a public good and musicians should be paid out of public funds (perhaps based on their popularity). Tax me and give me free music.
Robert, Netherlands

Napster has been used by big business as an example of something which in reality cannot be stopped. As one knows, behind every Napster there will always be another provider, which big business cannot stop. The case itself has been too lengthy to make the impact which it intended to, and they have therefore used Napster just as an example, which in effect only is a moral victory to the big commercial bands and record companies who already have too much of a market share for independent bands to share their artistic ability of making music.
Rasyid Kwee, Sweden

I think some people are being naive about the legal difficulties that Napster's precedent has created. If a program can be restricted based on its ability to infringe copyrights (and I'm not necessarily arguing for or against this), then it probably won't be long before laws begin to appear that hold ISPs responsible for the traffic they allow. I hear some people hinting about Gnutella and other alternatives... as far as I can see, given a firewall and a simple list of rules for traffic, they could all be blocked rather quickly. Given a complex anti-infringement program (and these are in the works, I'm sure), ISPs everywhere could shut down those networks almost overnight if they were forced to.
James Kenney, Texas, US

I for one will be glad when music is no longer controlled by a handful of large companies

Al Haigh, UK
The Gnutella file-swapping protocol means that music will still be free to download and there is pretty much nothing than can be done about it. The music industry is starting to pay the price for overcharging the general public for pre-recorded albums for years. I for one will be glad when music is no longer controlled by a handful of large companies.
Al Haigh, UK

Will the independent artists who used Napster as a legal distribution means still be allowed to continue to do so? Or will it become yet another closed shop where if you are unsigned, you get squeezed out of the distribution channel?
Martin, UK

There will be others to take its place.

Gareth, UK
Napster was the first, but it won't be last. Now that it has succumbed to the lure of big business (and betrayed everything it said it used to stand for), then there will be others to take its place.
Gareth Jamieson, Swindon, UK

End of free music? What nonsense. Napster is just the tabloid-friendly face of the whole concept of free music for all, and their failure has made no impact on that. Anyone who believes that no Napster means no free music is extremely naive and has been greatly misinformed. Remember that free music existed before Napster, and continues to exist after it - audio tapes in the past or MP3 files now, it's all the same, because Napster never was, and never will be, the alpha and omega of free music.
Jay Young, Warwick, England

For about 3 weeks I was really sad about the end of Napster, now I have found a much better file swapping service easier to use than Napster and the software is much more advanced... Who needs Napster?
andy, UK

Industries die... Get over it.

Paul, France
Locking up the music will not work because at some point you have to be able to hear it. When everyone can duplicate things perfectly (today with music), the publishing "industry" is obsolete. Industries die, that is a fact of life. Get over it.
Paul, France

A sad day indeed. Napster was a great facility for music lovers. Alas, free music on the net will still survive, if not through Napster there are many other modes. Power to the people.
Mak Luckhoo, Barbados

Napster made file swapping available to the masses and made it as easy as checking your mail. As the music companies can't close down a basic function of the Internet they can never stop file swapping. Lets face they haven't managed to stop the public copying audio tapes and CDs, have they? They have been scared as their lucrative distribution monopoly slipped through their fingers. Hopefully now they will readdress their business models and their attitudes towards consumers. I agree with the sentiment that Napster deprived artists of their rightful royalties but the majority of CD prices go nowhere near them. Maybe if artists were to sell directly to the public via MP3 they would be willing to pay the few pounds that make up the royalties on most hard-format album releases.
Dave Whyte, UK

I will never forgive the record companies for charging extra for CDs. They were cheaper to make than records or tapes. They just wanted to cash in on what people didn't know. Free Art, there's enough of it.
Dave Hacker, england

No problem!

Ryan, USA
No free Napster? No problem! There are dozens of other available programs like Napster that function better than Napster ever did. Music and video and everything else is still free-you just have to look a little harder.
Ryan Bastille, USA

I never found Napster that great. I've found most of the MP3s I've wanted form other sites as well as file sharing. Its also never stopped me buying albums when I already have the MP3's I'm just more selective now when I buy them. MP3s are no different than when everyone taped music, then CD burners came along and now we have MP3s. With all things new there are equal pros and cons.
Vez, UK

There is plenty of free music still available from non-centralised services such as WinMX with its new WPNP network. On these there is no problem with copyright blocking as there is on Napster. The amount of material available is however less than there was through Napster at its peak, as the user base is not quite so large.
Richard, UK

I can understand the hype about free material when it is recent. surely there has to be a point when a particular piece of music can become freely available, eg. after an artist or writers death or after 25 years.
Geoff, UK

...the beginning of the end...

Nigel, UK
This most probably is the beginning of the end for popular software such as Napster. With a legal precedence, other systems produced by single companies will most likely go the same way or disappear. However that won't stop MP3's and file sharing, unless they start targeting the ISP's (which I'll be surprised if they don't). There are already systems being developed to prevent copyright 'theft' at the hard drive level, so you wont be able to copy copyrighted material onto your hard drive unless you hold a valid key (and I assume have an always on connection to the internet?).
Nigel, UK

I'm surprised that the record industry seems to think that one court case is going to stop this. Do they actually have any comprehension of what it's like outside their ivory recording towers? There are too many alternatives, most of which are better than Napster anyway! Maybe it just a case of the rest of the world getting its own back after being severely ripped off by the music companies in the past (I don't include the artists themselves - they have also been shamelessly exploited by these companies)
James Hughes, UK

People should be rewarded for their work

Anthony, UK
I suppose the sad geeks who want everything, music, films, books, etc. handed to them on a plate will go somewhere else, until that's closed down or becomes commercial... Myself I believe that people should be rewarded for their work, but if their work is being given away against their will, that's not going to happen, so why should they create anything?
Antony, UK

It is with a mixture of great sadness and anger that I watch what would appear to be the death throes of Napster, mainly caused by the greed and selfishness of multinational corporations such as Sony, TimeWarner and BMG, rather than that of individuals. My own belief is that their prime motivation for the current legal proceedings against Napster,, and similar organisations, is CONTROL. The Internet offers the ultimate medium for musicians and writers to express themselves without the constraints of corporate-dictated fashion. Any musician, such as myself, now has the ability to allow works to be publicised, and downloaded by all who choose to do so, without being restricted by the "buying policies" of marketers, distributors and retailers. For each CD currently sold, only a tiny percentage passes to the original artist - the rest is creamed off by a plethora of "middle men". The "industry" may win the current skirmish, but those of us who struggle for artistic freedom will surely win the war.
Dougie Mathieson, UK

...too late to stop free music on the Internet.

Kenny, UK
It's way too late now, the horse has already bolted and the stable door is just flapping! There are countless file sharing (never mind just music) programs on the Internet, personally I find kazaa very good and others such as audio galaxy and iMesh are also popular. The powers that be are far too late to stop free music on the Internet, and to be honest they never really stood a chance in the first place.
Kenny, UK

It certainly does not mean the end of stealing music over the net. There are so many other systems out there and many people will continue to put common sense and morals aside and continue to steal from the hard working artists by downloading the songs for free.
Greg Heywood, UK

Will? There are already so many other ways to get free music. Napster was popular for its convenience and speed, not for its originality.
Mo, UK

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26 Apr 01 | Business
Napster use slumps after court order
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