Re: Napster: thoughts and comments?

From: Jeff Davis (
Date: Fri Jul 14 2000 - 13:09:49 MDT

What follows is copyrighted by Jeff Davis Friday July 14th, 2000. If you
read further please remit 25 cents. I wasted a lot of time on this, and as
a child, I had to go 25 miles a day through the ice and the snow--on my
hands and knees to build character--to get to school.

The discussion on this topic has been interesting, spirited, and all over
the place. There's been the political aspect: anarchy, democracy, free
market power, and the sweetly anticipated humbling of the powerful,
government-protected, old guard business moguls, by the x-y gen slacker

The internet like a new clear winner spreads its crystal mycelium to the
farthest reaches of the planet, bringing an equal logical catastrophe to
the sore old pods of the old world order. As their warm and comfy, neat
and tidy, sweetheart deal starts to crumble, and the chill freshet of a new
freedom fills the air, the aged and complacent behemoths begin to slow, and
sway, their eyes glaze over, their mentation, anticipating their fate,
turns to mulch, and the earth comes up to kiss them with ponderous smaaack.
 Then, the little warm blooded creatures, those that use to scurry around
in the shadows, and tremble in fear at the thunder lizards, come out to
fornicate gayly upon the mound of saurus wrecks, chittering the glory of a
new age: mutation, cognition, liftoff. Works every time. I saw a dead
whale on the beach the other day. A giant gelatinous blob almost
unidentifiable as the once magnificent creature. The waves crashed a few
feet away, and the tumbling foam, silent save for a popping effervescence,
raced across the sand to tag me unawares and drench me suddenly wide-eyed
with its cold surprise. Over top, the fresh breeze, scuffing across the
waves, scuffing from around the world--last stop Hawaii--lapping the arctic
cool from the Pacific blue, streamed around a rank mountain of rotting
meat, from whose slow putrifactive pyre a pall of ammonia and the mother of
all rotten sock collections, rose into the sky. The bacteria will dance
and sing, and the little scuttling crabs party hardy. Nothing goes to waste.

There's been the rational, evolutionary dynamic aspect.

Hal got it right. It's right there for all to see. Technology ushers in
change, destabilizing the old, which tries to hold on against the
inevitable. The new efficiencies of electronic distribution make it
cheaper using the net. That alone signals the end of the old business
model. But perhaps even more decisive is that temptress of the novel and
hip: convenience. The x-y-ers don't want to go to the mall, they ewant to
esurf the emall. Get with it Mr. Music man. It's Napster or Gnutella or
freeNet or yournet or it's the LaBrea tar pits, dinoboy. Evolve or die.

Then there's the raw, Law of the Jungle/Law of the Borg.

It's called the market. Resistance is futile. Anything that they want,
and that the net can supply, they will have. Napster is the first stroke
of Alexander's sword against the Gordian knot. Gnutella and freeNet are
slash two and three. The man makes rules. Technology invalidates them.
Hoo-flippin-ray. I've been sittin' here for several years wanting access
via the elibrary to every last scrap of human knowledge--call me nerd boy
and smile-- fuming that I couldn't get it. The tech was there. Finally
the twenty-something code geeks said screw this, and came to my rescue.
"Get out of the new road if you can't lend a hand, for the times they are
a-changing." You had your chance, Mr. Publisher man, to get it together
and sell your stuff over the net, but no, you were greedy, you wanted to
maintain control, to say, "You will pay what we tell you to pay." You
wanted it all. But those days are alternate+control+delete, pal. You'll
get what we say you get. Or you'll get nothing. Hack that. It's our turn
now. Call me thief. Hear me laugh.

Formulaic economics.

I have no idea what a Metallica album, er, CD, sells for in the store.
But, according to supply and demand, if it sold for less dollars, then it
would sell more units, and if less still dollars, then still more units.
(Up to a point of course.) So if you sell it on the net for less, much
less, then you sell more, much more. Your market penetration is greater,
and your popularity is larger, and your merchandizability is larger. There
would be a little box on the download page which would say purchase this
album: for $0.01 "you scumbag thief", for $0.10 "you cheap-ass loser", for
$0.25 "you just barely qualifying as a supporter of the arts", for $0.50
"you fair-minded individual, worthy of respect", for $1.00 "you rock-on
righteous metallica fan". What's a dollar, after all? What's a dime?
What's your self-respect worth? The revenues will roll in. And if this
little example does not turn out to be the winner in the Darwinian market
battle for the fittest business model, so what? There will, obviously, be
a winner. People want their MTV, rockers want their groupies, and the
lizards want their comissions. Nature will out.

Finally, the ethical issue.

I hear a lot of people using the word "thief".

Since the beginning of time the ruling class has either stolen the
"government" by main force, or bought the legislative franchise from the
current "owners". These "thieves" of political priviledge were never
called thieves because, quite naturally, the priviledge included the power
to define who was a thief. And it wasn't the franchisees. The people who
started this country (the U.S., though, with only slight variations this
story applies more or less equally to every human group--tribe to
nation-state--since the completion of the first expansion of primitive man
into virgin territory) murdered the ten million native inhabitants and
stole their land. Then they made use of about 25 million people and all
the generations of their descendents, violating them in every way
imaginable, but most particularly stealing their labor. Then they took the
capital--the gains of their previous criminal enterprise--theft and
murder--and they invested it. And while primarily engaged in the
capitalism thing, they were always--like riding a bicycle: you never
forget--or is it just a part of the capitalist skill set?-- on the lookout
for a chance to steal whatever, whenever, never allowing their villany to
dull through disuse. The very best and boldest thieves achieved the
highest social positions, positions of private and public executive
responsibility. Those not strictly qualified for thieving, but with a
talent for lying, assisted by constructing a fabric of lies--a history of
the nation telling how their culture was benevolent and just-- so that
everyone could work with dedication and enjoy the fruits of the criminal
enterprise with a clear conscience. Then of course their were those who
lacked talent or training in either thieving or lying. They had to make do
with enjoying the overall high standard of living provided by the thieving
of others and, working their butts off, chisling on their taxes(just
another kind of theft after all--both the chisling and the taxes),
complaining bitterly about being trickle-ees rather than trickle-ers, and
all the while declaiming vehemently their honesty and righteousness.

"What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
    how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
    express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
    in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
    world! the paragon of animals!"

Actually, people rich and poor are mostly quite decent. I like artists and
farmers and carpenters and computer geeks (though these last could do with
improved social skills and better taste in clothes :-) ).

If you make art, people will reward you for it, more in proportion to your
skill as a businessperson than as an artist, and almost certainly not as
much as you think you deserve, since we're all inclined to be a bit greedy.

Thieves are people, too.

Liars though, they really piss me off.

                        Best, Jeff Davis

           "Everything's hard till you know how to do it."
                                        Ray Charles

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