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That Thing - Napster

Napster Logo

A look at the controversial website that allows internet users to download copyrighted music for free.

(Lots of merged conversations sound)
Narrator : Something dangerous lurks inside a PC near you,it's called Napster.
(Sounds of music and modem)

News report : ....the internet frantically swapping music files bypasses the CD altogether.

Speaker : This is a revolution in that obviously,what it does is it gives you access to all the music ever created whenever you want it.

Narrator : It's a about to change the music industry forever.

News report : ..the Napster program.The CD's days are numbered.

Speaker : It's bigger than CD,'cos all CD was basically is taking a piece of vinyl that big,and reducing it to something else that big,and then making you buy your whole record collection again,I mean it was a pretty bad rip-off in a way.

News report : The CD is dead,dead,dead......

Narrator : Apocalyptic stuff,but what is all the fuss really about?

Voices : What is that thing?

Narrator : Napster is just a simple computer program you download of the internet,it connects web servers across the world allowing everyone to share music,to join in just type up your favourite track,and it's yours to download.From chart material...
(Britney Spears "I did it again" plays) obscure bedroom mixes.
(Britney clones play)
"I think I've farted again"
"I'm prince eddie,yes I'm the real steady"
"Ooh I'm pregnant again"
It's the biggest record shop in the world.
"Ooh I sang this before...."'s all free.

Voices : That thing.

Speaker : The record industry has worked in the same way for so long and now people really are sitting up and going "Oh God things are changing",so I think it is a bit of a revolution and as a DJ it's great to be able to go and hear a you know,a new tune that somebody's talked about and just locate it.There's even a radio station in Australia that I know,that programmed half of their radio station by downloading stuff off Napster 'cos they couldn't get the records.

Voices : The thing is.

Narrator : The thing is it's illegal to copy music,and it's through copyright violation that the record industry are trying to close Napster.

Speaker : All the record company's are interested in is how they make their money from the artists that they invest in,and Napster enables fans to swap their favourite pieces of music absolutely free.

Voices : Where did that thing come from?

Narrator : It was invented by a teenage computer genius.

Sean Fanning : I started it,you know just because I thought it was exciting,it was just sort of a small project.It doesn't seem like a job to me.It's just fun stuff.

Narrator : Sean Fanning created Napster in January last year to share his own musical attempts with friends.Now Napster has 20 million users world wide.
[That's the free market for you.If the music industry don't like it hard luck. Napster is just filling demand,and if a company sees another company as a threat you can't stop that company when competition is to hard to beat.Similarly just because the road hauliers and farmers don't like high taxes doesn't mean they can take the law into their own hands and cut of fuel from everyone else (see Joe Burns - point 5).If we were to adopt the record industry's stance E=MC^2 would not have been allowed outside of Einstein's mind in case it caused damage. This is Brian Appleyard's nonsense,and 1984 thought police.Things WILL change and progress WILL happen,bucking the trend is naive.The record industry should accept MP3 and Napster,but as it says later,they just can't figure how to profit from it. So what? Music is an art not a profit making concern it should be free.Intellectual freedom is more important than money -LB]

Speaker : I think it's hilarious that a 17 year-old guy in his university campus bedroom,can change the way we think about music,and the result of that is that we're saying we want music cheap and we want it easy.
[And in a democratic society where majority rules,why should the record industry like the hauliers be able to undemocratically veto what people want? -LB]

Speaker : Napster is brilliant for music fans,it's brilliant for music,it's just crap for the record industry,because they can't work out how to make any money out of it.

Voices : That thing. "And when the music starts...."

Narrator : The record industry's war with Napster is supported by many major stars. They nearly shut it down in July, but the case went to appeal,the warring parties meet up for a final legal showdown next month.

Net pundit : I think the reason for the record industry to be scared is less than "this free music", because they've always been able to compete on that somehow.I mean they could have set up their own Napster 2 years ago,I think they're scared of losing control, there's no mandate saying that the recording industry has to control music.

Narrator : The record business is a 38 billion pound industry basically unchanged for 50 years. You hear a record,go to the store and buy.Without this simple process,the industry says there'll be no new artists.
[That's total rubbish.People who are good, are getting a hearing,when the record industry overlooked them, as they weren't saleable .The plastic packaging and sausage machine boy bands and air-head female singers are being by-passed and so-called "popular" music which is what the record industry dictates,in terms of good looking stars with large video promos,are being ousted in favour of raw talent that gains credibility by virtue of actual musical ability. New artists that don't conform to the mould appear by virtue of getting a hearing by word of mouth internet credibility.What's happened is that the record industry is losing it's stranglehold on dictating popular taste -LB]

Industry pundit : If artists and music companies can't earn money from the sale of music,then we won't be able to invest in music in the future.That's a fact of life.Most artists are into music because it's how they want to make their living,and our responsibility's to help them protect that.
[Individuals invest in their own music.The price of equipment is such that anyone can theoretically afford everything necessary to make a high standard recording,because the technology is affordable and high quality. If there is demand for that artists,people will STILL be willing to pay,for live shows and merchandise and possibly even officially produced recordings on some medium. What it means is that performers are possibly unlikely to be millionaires,unless they work a large percentage of live gigs and merchandising.There is no mandate that musicians have to become millionaires either.It also means that small overlooked talent gets put on a level playing field with industry backed performers,since everyone is in the same boat - ie equality.It's unfair that bubble heads lie Britney Spears should be backed as a saleable package when their are better musicians (my value judgment) that are probably unable to to become known,because they don't conform to the record industry ideas of "talented".Those choosing "talent" invariably wouldn't know it if they fell over it,and so the public gets sold what the industry thinks is "good". Let the people decide what's good,that's what happens in a democracy.The record industry pre filters what acts are up for grabs,who voted for them? -LB]

Narrator : Heavy metal band Metallica are protecting themselves against Napster.
[What Metallica are doing,is shooting themselves in the foot. By ostrich like sticking their head in the sand rather than surfing the tidal wave,you not only stand to be knocked over by progress,you also go against common consensus. Not that I ever bought Metallica,I now definitively WILL never by Metallica purely because they are anti-progress,and anti-Napster. Progressive bands can see that the only way forward is to go with the flow.You can't stop progress.Those bands that HAVE taken advantage of Napster are becoming famous on the strength of supporting it -LB]

Lars Ulrich : If you have the right to download my music for free....

Narrator : Drummer Lars Ulrich is leading the fight.

Lars Ulrich : ...then let's say that you're a plumber,or you're a car mechanic or whatever,the I have the right to call you up at any time and demand that you come over and demand that you fix my plumbing for free.
[I'm sure Lars's plumbing needs fixing.Music is not a commodity or a service it's an art. Once Anthony Gormley's "Angel of the North" went up everyone who drives past it on the motorway views it for free,which is not to say Gormley wasn't commissioned to build it. But Lars's view is a narrow and demeaning view of music as a packaged commodity that one sells like so many hot cakes -LB]

Voices : It's a metal thing?

Lars Ulrich : It must be a slow news day.

Narrator : Drummer Ulrich took Napster to court in May,and won a small battle to ban users who downloaded Metallica.
[So Lars has achieved the fantastic victory of stopping people around the world from hearing HIS music,whilst everyone else's music IS heard.Nice going Lars,now no one will get to hear your new record! I'm sure that's exactly what you wanted! -LB]

Lars Ulrich : Real people downloading Metallica master songs. You know is it only artists and creative people that are...should be,sort of looked upon to provide their services for free? Where does it end?

Speaker : There was a suggestion from Lars Ulrich of Metallica,that if he needed to,he would come round with a bunch of goons,and take your computer away for doing it.
[Ahh so Lars is willing to break democratic law and my rights like the road hauliers in order to protect HIS interests.That's a selfish minority concern in a democratic country. Moreover his solution is the jack booted solution of fascism.Stamp out what you don't like -LB]

Lars Ulrich : If we have to start knocking on doors,and have to go in and confiscating hard drives in people's homes....
[If Lars does this he could be accused of stealing personal information contained on that drive which is against the law,as it is when a virus type programme steals personal information off the hard drive over the net.It's interesting that he's prepared to break the law to stop others "breaking the law".Two wrongs don't make a right,and there's some doubt as to whether a "wrong" has take place,since I have the freedom to download whatever I like over the net,this is a priority freedom of the individual in a free society. MP3 trading could still go on without Napster it would just be less efficient,killing Napster would do little to solve Lars's problem.He just doesn't get what's happened and is digging his heels in. People are already changing file suffixes to end in something other than .MP3 so tracking programs can't find them.In order to track them down you'd have to search every file on every computer - an impossible task -LB]

Speaker : I'd like to see him try,they're a metal band,and he's a drummer.A drummer? They've made millions out of their fans (see Joe Burns -point 4).

Lars Ulrich : You know,look around I've got more money than I know what to do with,so it's not really about us at the end of the day,what it is about it's taking a stance,and I think who it mostly affects are really the people in the smaller bands who sell a couple of thousand copies of their records.They depend on the royalties,they depend on their publishing income.
[Some of those bands are smart enough to make .MP3's and put them on Napster! -LB]

Narrator : But for some bands, Napster is proving a very effective promotional tool.

Speaker : There is an argument that these sites can be a breeding ground for new talent.I mean probably the most famous case of an internet signing is the Darude record.
(Darude plays)
I think the guy was in Finland and sent it to a guy over hear on the internet,online,and he signed it,a few thousand quid,and it's gone on to sell a couple of hundred thousand records.
"My name is prince..."

Narrator : Many established bands including big names are pro Napster,even though they could end up losing money because of it.
[The list includes David Bowie who along with Peter Gabriel have been quick to exploit the new technologies and are sailing along on an ocean wave.Bowie has always been an indicator of the way things are going,and if he's in on it,you can bet that's the way things are going.Lars will be a has-been in a short while.Aimee Mann and Limp Bizkit also support Napster amongst others -LB]
The fate of Napster and the music industry will be decided by the October court case.
[The record industry attitude is like the oil companies towards new efficient technologies that take the power away from fossil fuel.They will stymie research until it's absolutely necessary to use something other than oil.Ie "The Betsy" and "First Monday in September",the latter where the perpetual motion machine is kept in an X-files storage room,because the oil magnates would no longer profit.Theoretically we'd all love transport that ran without fuel and not have to pay for petrol,even the road hauliers! This is cutting your nose off to spite your face! The wise person,sees that oil WILL run out and invests in new source of power. Similarly the record industry should invest in Napster and MP3.What they are doing is holding onto Betamax,when VCR is being taken up.If they do that they will go the way of the dinosaur."Adapt to survive" -LB]

Voices : That's that then.

Narrator : In the meantime,the record companies continue to pursue Napster users.

Net fascist :There are 14,000 downloads a minute on Napster.We're just going to have a look at the people who are on the Napster network at the moment.

Narrator : And there's no hiding.
[In this Big Brother situation,one might see that making a virus that attacked the anti-Napster snooper's programs would not be terrorism but a strike for freedom by revolutionaries.Do you think people have the right to come into your home or break down your door and take your property information? That's called "theft". When it happened to Gary Glitter,it was because he was in violation of moral codes protected by law (which is a different argument as to what is moral or not).But Lars is not the police, and if copyright law is being invoked ,the there is an issue of private citizen's rights to have "free power" without the oil companies or road hauliers holding the public to ransom or Lars removing people's rights to pass files over the net versus his rights as an artist. Lars is not right by default -LB]

Net fascist : I'm going to do a specific search for,a track I know has been very popular recently,"7 days" hopefully this'll then give us information about the people who've got it,and track them down,and take the necessary enforcement action.So we've now got our search done,and we've got an IP address for somebody with this Craig David track.Now this is somebody at the university of Manchester.
[Note that this guy is searching someone's hard drive without their permission,and he is on the "legal" side of the law. Do you think the establishment has the right to search your private belongings without getting a search warrant? Or obtaining your permission. These snoops are fascists and must be stopped.Fascist establishment toadies like him are those that stymie progress -LB]

Speaker : This technology's been created and it's got a strong user base then they've got to learn to adapt,to live with it.This is just forcing the issue a little bit faster that's all.
[I suspect Richard Branson WILL adapt and we'll have Virgin Napster -LB]

Speaker : It's like trying to stop porn websites,you know a lot of the porn websites are illegal,but there's no way you could ever even think about stopping it.It's no different with music.
[In fact some musicians are exploiting the net to interact online and pass files to each other and create tracks as "virtual performers",the track is not any particular artist,but a loose association of performers passing ideas to each other,this harks back to ideas from the 60s - LB]

Speaker : At the moment I think this whole scenario's very silly...people are quoting home taping when that first came in and people said "People with cassettes at home is going to wipe the music industry out",and then mini disk came along and they said the same,and it hasn't really.
[It's just fear of the unknown like luddites when looms came along. (see Joe Burns -point 6)- LB]

Speaker : Home taping had a much more limited audience,you would have gone to the record shop on a Saturday,or whatever,bought your album and made a copy for yourself.If you were so inclined you might have made a copy for someone else,as well.With the internet,you've got an audience of hundreds of millions of people.You only need to make that copy once,and everybody can have access to it.
[If we're to go by this,then profits should have halved as duplicates flooded the market.that DIDN'T happen.Sheer scale is not a valid argument.Neither is higher quality reproduction.If the potential audience is so big,one wonders why Lars doesn't wish to broadcast to them -LB]

Voices : Will things ever be the same?
["The more things change the more they stay the same" -RUSH]

Net pundit : If you have a new medium that is being enthusiastically being embraced by your next generation of consumers,it is not really smart to call them criminals and declare war on this new medium that they are adopting with such enthusiasm.It merely alienates your next generation of consumers.
[In short David Bowie is smart,and Lars Ulrich is an idiot,but then we already new that.Lars has definitively alienated me.Progressive minds will always be ahead of the pack -LB]

Speaker : I don't really understand what the record company's did to upset everybody. Is there something wrong with us,I mean are we missing the point here.Of look the record company's are making so much money,they're just big fat cats.You know it's a business at the end of the day.
[Yes on both counts.The record industry dictates popular taste in music,which is undemocratic,and misses the point that change is inevitable and one should exploit it not try to stop it.The record company's exploit the artist and the fans.They make endless cover versions and rehashes,rather than supporting new and progressive acts,and take and unwarranted cut of their pond of flesh out of the artists.The money middle men are unnecessary. Scientists online at are already bypassing the usual communication channels and speaking directly to the public. Artists are lagging the technologists and dragging their romantic heels as usual as it said on Material World (Doc30)about the CP Snow's two cultures today's novelists and artists are slowly accommodating technology and those that do-profit,those that don't are antiquated dinosaurs.What we're seeing is the "useless third" being ejected.The people who make their living off the backs of everyone else are finding that their parasitic ways don't work online.Smart artists and musicians are setting up their own websites and files and contacting their own fans without corporate big wigs parasitically preying on them."Sampling" technology should have killed music,it didn't it just provided a new tool -LB]

Speaker : The fact that people think that making music is a business and money should be made out of it,is actually when you think of the history of the world,a very small time,and before that since time in memorial,people have been making music, as a hobby, as part of community.It's conceivable that the way the internet works,that will break that down again.Maybe music as a career will not be as important,and maybe people will go out and be butchers bakers and candle stick makers during the day,and then come home in the evening and mess about and make their own music and share it with people.
[It's only in Western society that music is a commodity.Tribal peoples play music to bond relate and communicate and celebrate. The streets of Rio and the Notting Hill carnival and many other outdoor activities are filled with free music.Churches sing to celebrate God, no one pays for it. Music has been chained into bondage in Western culture and made a slave to money maker.THAT'S what they have done wrong.Music is SUPPOSED to be free,as much as I have a right to free speech or free thought -LB]
(Britney clones play)
" I think I've farted again.."
"Ooh I'm pregnant again.."
"Make my boobies one more time..."

[The last clone indicates what the public think of artists such as Britney spears,they see manufactured artists made to fill a niche that only exists in the mind of big business,and the artists is a plastic doll and artificial,like eating a protein pill instead of a hearty meal. It's just like Rush's "Superconductor". The notion of "selling one's soul or art for fame" means that such artists are seen to have "sold out" to the corporate machinery,as much as say lefty comic Ben Elton was seen to have become toned down and less radical by becoming part of the BBC.Radical and progressive music is uncontrolled by corporate mentality,which ultimately owes its allegiance to the classical ideas of upper middle class people with no street level comprehension.This is how politicians come not to know people who are in the public eye,and revered by the public.They are seen as "out of touch" with common or popular culture.These same people decide what is "tasteful" or "saleable" for everyone else like fascist Mary Whitehouses censoring music to be only the pap which they deem to be of any good. Well WHO elected them arbiters of MY taste?
When MIDI and sampling came in and even before in some cases progressives like Brian Eno (who is also on I think - the Third culture) Bill Bruford,Jan Hammer,Neil Peart all embraced the technology and profited from doing so. "All this machinery making modern music can still be open hearted" -Peart.The perception is that corporate music is soulless heartless pap and twaddle that middle class business directors play at their little girls party to dance to. Real music fans want real music,from real musicians.Lars Ulrich is cutting his own throat. Music is the victim of the record industry not of Napster,"don't swallow the poison-spit it out". Support Napster - Support progress,as Pink Floyd said "Tear down the Wall" - I wonder if they're pro Napster? -LB]

Note that this track comes from the vinyl album that was paid for,and I have on occasion copied tracks for other people - the artist remains popular,sells out concerts and sells CDs and merchandise by the bucket load,not least because I try and get hold of them myself-LB

Rush - Superconductor

Packaged like a rebel or a hero
Target mass appeal
To make an audience feel
He really means it

Package the illusion of persona
Careful to conceal
The fact that she's only too real
She's got to screen it

Hit you in a soft place
A melody so sweet
A strong and simple beat
That you can dance to

Watch his every move
Orchestrate illusions
Watch his every move
Hoping you'll believe
Designing to deceive
That's entertainment

He can put a target on the market
Bask in your applause
Reality withdraws
Now he believes it

The role becomes the actor
She's addicted to applause
The stage a world because
She never leaves it

Hit you in a soft place
With sentimental ease
They know your fantasies
That you romance to

Watch her every move
She can manipulate reactions
Watch her every move
Pin the donkey on the tail
Fantasy for sale
That's entertainment





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BBC2 File Info: Created 19/9/2000 Updated 28/12/2000 Page Address: