The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Wednesday, March 7, 2001

Napster Wars: Name That Song

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: And so the battle rages on. Another blow to Napster, the file-swapping service beloved by over 57 million music fans. Federal District Court Judge Marilyn Patel issued an injunction late Monday night (March 5) against Napster, requiring the company to block copyrighted files once the copyright holders provide Napster with specific, detailed information about the songs. No surprise there — it was, clearly, just a matter of time before the ax would fall. So now the corporations that own most of the copyrights will spend countless hours and dollars delivering info about millions of songs to Napster, so that those songs can be purged from the service's index. Big media companies will pat themselves on the back and gleefully pray for Napster's abrupt demise. Some of them have, literally, equated Napster with Satan. But as most of us know, even if Napster goes away, file swapping doesn't. Consider, for example, this little issue of what the song is called — not its real name, but rather, what one fan chooses to name a song file so another fan can find and download it. For those who don't want their files traded on Napster, this is a problem. Metallica/Dr. Dre lawyer Howard King told a New York Times reporter that Metallica's "Fade to Black" doesn't come up on Napster when you search using the correct name, but "Fade 2 Black" delivers "numerous entries." So if, say, Johnny Boy somehow gets his hands on the upcoming Springsteen live album or the new Depeche Mode, all he has to do is make up names for the songs and then, perhaps via email, provide others with the code, as it were. We're talking millions of music fans, many of who regard the whole Napster issue as a game, or as a way to identify themselves as rebels. Are they likely to play by Judge Patel's rules? I don't think so. Will this ultimately lead to further injunctions against Napster? Will the company successfully launch a subscription service? Or will it cry uncle and clear the field for other, less centralized file-sharing programs? Napster or no Napster, file sharing seems here to stay. In focusing on Napster this past year, the music business has to some extent obscured the real problem it faces. Day by day, it becomes easier and easier for music fans to distribute songs they like to their "friends." In striking a blow against Napster, this injunction may strike the copyright-holding corporations too, know what I mean?

Datastream: Keep an eye out for the debut album from the San Francisco-based Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (B.R.M.C.), due for release later this year. The self-titled album is a glorious, sometimes noisy mix of Brit-pop and Brit-punk influences, new and old. While "Awake" could be some long-lost early Pink Floyd psychedelia, "Whatever Happened to My Rock 'N' Roll (punk song)" rages along like an amped-up Jesus and Mary Chain track. "I fell in love with a sweet sensation," goes the chorus. "I gave my heart to a simple chord/ I gave my soul to a new religion/ Whatever happened to you?/ What ever happened to our rock 'n' roll?" ... On March 21 John Oswald will unleash 69 plunderphonics 96, a two-CD retrospective box set. A 44-page hardcover book that comes with the set includes a 30,000 word interview with Oswald, in which he explains the "process and the cultural and historical context" of the material. The 60-song set is drawn from a 25-year period (hence the title); Oswald has spent the past two years working on it at his "sonic research facility."

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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