Friday, February 21, 2003

It's major versus major

EMI are reportedly weighing up joining a class action against Bertelsmann because of it's underwriting of Napster. This, of course, should be viewed purely on its own, and not mulled in the context of the oft-mooted BMG/EMI merger rumours.

Interestingly, it could be argued that Bertelsmann would be able to launch a much stronger case against EMI, suggesting that one of that companies, Robbie Williams, appeared to encourage the 'theft' of its copyright material in widely-reported remarks last month. Go on, the quiet Germans... give us all a laugh.

Meanwhile, the stakes in file-sharing wars have been upped with both the new Madonna and White Stripes records having duff spoof versions loaded into the main file swapping systems in a bid to undermine them.

Too late, guys. We wondered in this space why Metallica didn't do this back at the start of their battle with Napster; it might have been effective then, killing off the reputation of file-sharing as the Place To Go To Get The Tracks at its birth. But in 2003, it's not going to have the same effect, is it? People have built up a collection of tracks, and know that Not Everything Out There is rubbish; they'll also have micronetworks of trusted sources to try first by now. And with the faster speed of computers and connections spreading out - so you spend a couple of minutes downloading a track, and its not genuine? No real loss, just try clicking on another in the list. It's no worse than downloading a recommended track and finding it's shit. Indeed, all spoofing is going to do now is put off the casual sampler - "is the white stripe band I keep hearing about any good? Oh, this is a spoof track. I shall sample Def Leppard's wares instead." And a Madonna .mp3 which is one idea repeated over and over again for three minutes? How would that be different from the official release?

One last thing: If the record companies are using the networks for spoofs, how does this affect their legal relationships? Presumably they don't object to the system swapping their spoofs - if they did, they'd have to prosecute their own IT departments for uploading them in the first place - so they're merely increasing the amount of legitimate material zapping from machine to machine, which is going to make it harder to get the networks shut down. A massive own goal caused by moving way too slowly, then.

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