Re: Napster: thoughts and comments?

From: Alex Future Bokov (
Date: Mon Jul 10 2000 - 15:45:07 MDT


On Mon, 10 Jul 2000 wrote:

> Just out of curiosity, the legal suit by Metallica, was it discussed here?
> What does the list think of Napster? Is ethical or non-ethical? Do you use
> it?

Ethics is a really personal, varying thing. I can tackle this from the point
of view of practicality.

1. IP laws were brought into existance on the assumption that society needed
them as an incentive for progress.

2. IP laws used to be enforceable, when copying equipment was bulky and
expensive. Anybody who bought enough equipment to make a serious dent
in the royalties would a) get noticed and b) would lose a lot of investment
when the Feds came to kick down their door.


1. A number of factors, including the increasing acceptance of
anti-authoritarian ideologies (like ours) a healthy economy, and
improved communications have made a 'gift economy' possible as
described by ESR. Suddenly, there is a much more complex system of
incentive for creating software and other intellectual work. These
incentives persist regardless of whether an author stands to collect
royalties. Indeed, royalties create an irritating (but circumventable
through reverse engineering) source of friction in the open development

2. A law that cannot be enforced is not much of a law, and is not long
for this world. When all you need is a $1500 computer with a cable
modem and a copy of Napster (or better yet, GNUtella) to commit
'copyright infringement' on a monumental scale... when you can upload
and download thousands of supposed dollars worth of 'intellectual
property' in one evening... and maybe 0.1% of the time you'll get
caught... and even if you are, they'll have a hard time making it stick
if you wipe your drive and play dumb.

2A. Correction, IP can be enforced, but at severe cost to our digital
freedom and privacy. If ISP's are required to sniff your packets, if
your computer use gets logged and escrowed, if you are prohibited from
being anonymous and from using crypto... perhaps then the fiction of
intellectual property will continue for a while. I don't know if the
voters of the free world would knowingly make such a tradeoff.

I don't own my ideas. My ideas own me, and if I'm not the best vehicle
for their propogation and evolution, they will find someone who is.

- --

militia assault rifle 5th Group
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