Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

Bruce Perens: Napster Hurts Free Software

By rusty in News
Thu May 04, 2000 at 07:24:16 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

Bruce Perens has an excellent editorial on Technocrat.net discussing his views of Napster and the new music bootlegging industry, titled Music Bootlegging with Napster Hurts Free Software. His basic thesis is that whether you like the laws or not, music bootlegging is still illegal, and making it easier and more common is giving intellectual-property based industries ammunition for implementing "trusted client" technologies, and preventing their media from ever being playable by free software. He points out, correctly, I think, that stealing music and creating free software are not remotely the same, and that the widespread support of media bootlegging in the free software community is reinforcing an image of us as "anti-commercial pirates" which is not deserved. I know it's another Napster article, but it's one of the first I've seen that takes a measured view of the topic, and he makes several points that we all ought to be considering before proclaiming our support for Gnutella and Napster.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o Technocrat
o Technocrat .net
o Music Bootlegging with Napster Hurts Free Software
o Also by rusty

Display: Sort:
Bruce Perens: Napster Hurts Free Software | 20 comments (20 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Bruce, dude.... People have been do... (none / 0) (#9)
by Saint Zero on Thu May 04, 2000 at 03:53:56 PM EST

Saint Zero voted 0 on this story.

Bruce, dude.... People have been doing this _before_ the freaking net got popular. It's not like it suddenly became a problem. It just got easier and bigger.
---------- Patron Saint of Nothing, really.

Could we have a suggested links col... (none / 0) (#8)
by Mrs Edna Graustein on Thu May 04, 2000 at 05:02:15 PM EST

Mrs Edna Graustein voted 1 on this story.

Could we have a suggested links column
And if any of you put that in a .sig, I'll hunt you down and kill you twice. ;-)

I don't agree with Bruce but it is ... (3.00 / 2) (#10)
by Anonymous Zero on Thu May 04, 2000 at 05:09:39 PM EST

Anonymous Zero voted 1 on this story.

I don't agree with Bruce but it is worthy of discussion.

Bruce's main concern is the growing adoption of "trusted client" technology where media is sent encrpyted to paying customers and can only be decrypted in hardware on the paying customer's machine. Bruce is concerned that big media companies will not allow free software to support their trusted client protocols.

Well, DIVX was basically the epitame of "trusted client" technology, and consumers rejected it because DVD was less restrictive. People seemed to think that since DVD's weak encryption was cracked that movie studios would stop releasing DVDs but instead DVD is just getting more popular. My point here is the consumers are the ones to decide if new formats suceed or fail so it's is best to educate consumers about the flaws in various restrictive formats.

Basically that's BS. We've discuss... (none / 0) (#2)
by FlinkDelDinky on Thu May 04, 2000 at 05:51:50 PM EST

FlinkDelDinky voted 1 on this story.

Basically that's BS. We've discussed all this before. Trusted client was rejected by the market with dvix. Trusted client won't work if nobody watchin!

VHS movies cost $100 buck a pop when they first came out. Do you know why they cost $14 now? Because at $14 you, yah you, would rather have an 'original' copy than your friends pirated version.

You know that cd's cost 50 cents a pop and cassettes cost over $1 but the cd's cost more to buy. F*** that! For most proffesionals the break point would be $10.00, at $10.00 they'd rather have the 'original' copy, and they'd buy more cds. For students and cheap bastards like myself the break point is around $8.00.

Trusted client my ass. People have a great many business's competeing for their time, none can afford to piss off their customers.

The article was FUD

Re: Basically that's BS. We've discuss... (none / 0) (#15)
by FlinkDelDinky on Thu May 04, 2000 at 11:06:40 PM EST

It didn't come through on my previous post but I support IP and if a band doesn't want their music distribited (pirated) via Naptilla, so be it. I think it hurts their ability to generate a market for their concerts and memorabillia but that's their problem.

[ Parent ]
-2 points for posting another Napst... (none / 0) (#6)
by Notromda on Thu May 04, 2000 at 05:55:50 PM EST

Notromda voted 1 on this story.

-2 points for posting another Napster story, but
+3 points for Bruce Perens, for making a stand

I keep seeing the arguments, but they just keep sounding like a bunch of whiners. Sure, there could be some legitimate uses of Napster and mp3's. Granted, the current method of publication sucks.

Nevertheless, obtaining copies of music that have been copyrighted but licensed to be used in that matter is wrong. There are plenty of laws that describe it as such, and the only way to argue otherwise is to completely throw away the "right" of copyright.

Also, as Bruce said, if people keep stealing copyrighted works, as most Napster users are prone to do, (To say otherwise is just playing ignorance) The result will indeed be a restriction of freedoms in some way or another. When one group infringes on the freedoms of another, government has a tendancy to interfere. In fact, a lot of peole have called this a good thing, when it is applied to racial rights, gender rights, environmental rights... (ooo I can hear the toes getting crunched)

Do you want to have the right to view copyrighted material with the tool of your choice? Better make sure you have permission to do so, or else before long there will be no choice.

typo... (none / 0) (#12)
by Notromda on Thu May 04, 2000 at 07:54:37 PM EST

Rusty can we find some way to preview the vote commentary?

There should be a "not" in the third paragraph...

s/but licensed/but not licensed/

[ Parent ]

Re: typo... (none / 0) (#16)
by rusty on Thu May 04, 2000 at 11:50:48 PM EST

That is coming, but the fix is being "bundled" ( :-) ) with a whole big overhaul of the moderation system, and sections, to boot. So it'll be a little while longer. Unless of course I get fed up and decide to change it sooner, which does happen sometimes. One never knows. But sooner or later, yes.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Where's the write-up? ... (none / 0) (#3)
by skim123 on Thu May 04, 2000 at 06:06:09 PM EST

skim123 voted 0 on this story.

Where's the write-up?

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

Now this is a good discussion topic... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
by Velian on Thu May 04, 2000 at 06:07:56 PM EST

Velian voted 1 on this story.

Now this is a good discussion topic. But I, of course, won't say anything (personally I'm sick of it, but most people aren't) except that gnutella rules and Napster sucks. :)

seems a least midly interesting... (none / 0) (#11)
by gampid on Thu May 04, 2000 at 06:09:42 PM EST

gampid voted 1 on this story.

seems a least midly interesting

Protest.Net: Seizing the means of communication!

Well, better late than never. Woul... (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by RobotSlave on Thu May 04, 2000 at 06:31:38 PM EST

RobotSlave voted 1 on this story.

Well, better late than never. Wouldn't it have been nice if Bruce or one of the other Free/OS Software Quote Generators had written something along these lines as soon as Napster was released?

Unfortunately, the article won't make much difference, even if every single advocate of free software refrains from pirating via NapTella. Why? Becuase most pirates are young male windows users who don't give a damn about Software Libre. Many do it because they don't want to use up what money they have buying expensive CDs. Some of them do it because they want to be rebels; to bring down the Evil Music Empire. Some do it because knowledge of music is a social asset amongst their peers (local radio may not provide much in the way of variety, and it will never provide "exclusive" knowledge, which has a higher social value). Many do it because they love music. Almost all of them, I suspect, have collections of CDs as well, purchased or copied.

I'm sick to death of the "debate" over Naptella, but I think Bruce is adding something to it. Something like an adult voice. I'd only add a quote that I first heard from the Dead Boys, though it was probably in wide circulation at the time:

"Now go start your own fucking band!"

We can discuss this at tecnocrat.ne... (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by pretzelgod on Thu May 04, 2000 at 06:48:08 PM EST

pretzelgod voted -1 on this story.

We can discuss this at tecnocrat.net, thank you very much.

Ever heard of the School of the Americas?

The one problem with the suggested ... (4.00 / 1) (#1)
by sakico on Thu May 04, 2000 at 07:24:16 PM EST

sakico voted 1 on this story.

The one problem with the suggested idea of "legitimate" downloads for a microfee is that most internet users believe everything should be free. When you can get mp3s through Napster, Gnutella, IRC, or anything else for NO COST, a large proportion of people are going to get them that way, no matter how much more trouble it is. "Why should I pay half a cent to download this album when I can get it for free?" is the rallying cry. It's the same thing with online warez. Let's download 600 MB over a couple hours (or days, on a modem). It's certainly a better idea than just going to a store and spending $15-40 on a game. I can see it when we're talking about a piece of software worth over $1.000, but to save $20? MP3 (the format) isn't about to go away. The related piracy isn't either.

Re: Bruce Perens: Napster Hurts Free Software (none / 0) (#13)
by Dacta on Thu May 04, 2000 at 08:00:13 PM EST

I agree with Bruce in that I think the way that Napster is being used is wrong. I can't see the "Street Performer Protocol" working either, and I'm afraid that the "trusted client" thing might be the way things end up going. (I'm not saying I like that idea, though)

Of course, there will always be ways around it, but that's not the point.

I'm not a big user of Napster, but I do use it to get music that I wouldn't be able to get otherwise - live performances and the like.

I don't have any ideas for a real solution from the music industies point of view. I suspect if there is one it will involve micro (< $1) payments for permement song licences. (I'm hoping they don't try pay-per-view)

Of course, first we need an international micropayment infrastructure, which still looks to be a way off.

ummm, no. (1.00 / 1) (#14)
by jetpack on Thu May 04, 2000 at 11:03:11 PM EST

I have two problems with Mr. Perens' point of view:

[0] Bruce claims that he is for free software. That means "freedom". That means (in part) programmers can do what the hell they want. You can't draw a line and "this is acceptable as free software and this isnt". It's freedom. You take the good with the bad. Get over it.

[1] It doesnt matter whether there is napster or gnutella or whatever. The music and movie industries will push for "trusted clients", or whatever other crap it can come up with to keep their cartel. A bunch of kids snagging mp3s over the net is incidental. And, BTW, if "the industry" impliments this nonesense, you can bet us crazy hackers will circumvent the process. Which leads me to

[2] this is the scrapping that will lead to a new model for information distribution. I don't beleive it will lead to artists making zero cash. It *may* lead to artists never becoming multi-billionairs and record labels losing some stock value. Tough shit.

I'm not at all in favour of ripping off artists. But most artists are *not* profitting from the current scheme, and I think (and hope) that the current smack-down on the cartels thru tools like napster and gnutella will eventually produce a better, and yet unforseen, solution.

/* The beatings will continue until morale improves */
Re: ummm, no. (none / 0) (#17)
by BlaisePascal on Fri May 05, 2000 at 09:43:11 AM EST

I have two objections to your comments... [0] I don't agree with your unqualified statement that free software means (in part) "programmers can do what the hell they want." And I don't see how advocacy for free software implies support for music piracy. There are a couple of problems here: Ethically, how can I expect people to respect the GPL or other free software license on my free software if I am willing to violate the copyright license on others intellectual property? How can I expect respect when I show none myself? And practically, equating the "free (as in speach) software" movement with the "free (as in beer) music" movement gives the nay-sayers something to point at. Why market items for Linux if the linux people are a) too cheap to spend $15 on a CD, and b) will just give the software away anyway? Why should standards be opened if money can be made selling closed products to "legitimate" customers instead of taking the time and effort to cater to the free software "nuts" who will just use it to pirate anyway? As it is, I will respect the wishes of the artists rather than the RIAA. I won't grab MP3s of Metallica songs, or of other commercial artists who haven't said it's OK. I will rip, for personal use, MP3s of songs I own on CD already, because in my mind that is or should be legal anyway (I disagree with the recent my.mp3.com ruling -- long before recordable CDs were available, I had the idea of a mall-store that made custom mix CDs from the originals that people brought in). Limp Bizkit (I think) has said they encourage Napster, and that's fine. Unfortunately for them, I don't like their music enough to seek it out. [1] The bunch of kids snagging MP3s over the 'net give the RIAA and company a visible target that meets their agenda. True, they aren't as financially threatening to the RIAA as the big-time pirates who have their own CD plants. But RIAA and MPAA like the second sale, like restricting performance to benefit their needs, etc. You are right, they will push for trusted client. But in order to get away with it, they need an excuse, a scape-goat. Why should the "free software" movement provide that scapegoat? I've seen mention of DIVX as an experiment in trusted clients that failed. It failed for several reasons. First, there were other alternatives. DIVX was marketed as removing the need to return tapes/DVDs to the rental place. Yet people could still buy or rent tapes/DVDs, which for most people met their needs. Second, the public (rightly) saw it as a greedy technological move on the part of the the movie industry. Consumers weren't getting any benefit, and the industry wasn't hurting for its lack. But now, the next bit of trusted-agent action that the industry is going to try has a better chance of working. Why? Because the industry can say "We've lost (made-up-number) to pirates who trade MP3s around like water on the internet, and we need to do (some trusted-agent scheme) to counter this illegal activity". [3] Most artists do make some (albeit very little) from record sales. If an artists gets $0.05/copy of a $15 CD that sells 10,000 copies, and $0.00/copy of a $0.00 MP3 that "sells" 100,000 copies, which method of distribution does he get more money from?

[ Parent ]
Re: Bruce Perens: Napster Hurts Free Software (none / 0) (#18)
by el_vez on Fri May 05, 2000 at 11:08:27 AM EST

Why you cant stop mp3s
Profile of your typical mp3 pirate

OK, at the risk of beeing redundant, offtopic and boring, i just had to get some stuff of my chest.

Ill start at the other end.
Broadband is the way of the future, watch any newsbroadcast raving about the "new economy" and networks of people and technology. Our government (swedish) is funding nationwide highspeed optical-fibre-networks to keep a "strategic edge". Does anyone doubt that the world will become less connected in the future? Didnt think so.
Bandwidth is a comodity, because of the ability to instantly access virtualy any peice of information you could ever want.

Now, Im a music lover. I have two guitars, and played the drums since middle school. I own alot of music.
I have also used computer since about the age of 8 (some 14 -15 years ago).

A couple of years back, at a copy-party i was intruduced to the mp3 format. It was great, i almost instantly got access to a huge network with 1000s of songs, some of them my favourites, and i could keep them on my computer and share them with friends. What? I ruthlessly copied music whithout paying for it? Yes, and to me it was the same thing same thing as copying a computer game or movie of your friend, which i had been doing for ages. (Now you try telling and 8 year old that making a copy of Quake 3 is morally wrong) besides the chance of getting caught doing that is less than to be killed by a whale falling from the sky. I mean even the cops have priated computer games on their kids computers for gods sake. Back in the days when we "pirated" software, the only uncool thing you could do was to charge someone for what you had not payed for.
Ask yourself theese questions. Why is it "more" wrong to copy music rather than games,
And, have you ever copied a computer game, or program? Never ever "burnt a copy" of a cd of a good friend?
Copying mp3s is excatly the same thing, only with napster it is done in a larger scale.

Mp3 is a very convenient format( as is any compressed digital format). Beeing the lazy me i dont have to swap CDs in and out of a player, but can access my entire archive of songs with a mouse click. The cloneability that is the nature of the digital format makes distributing and copying a jiff. Combined with highspeed internet access it is a lethal combination.

The Industry should have seen this comming. Anyone remember when the RIAA tried to hunt the net for mp3 sites? What we saw next was napster. Does anyone think that napster is the last step in trading, or pirateing music?

The problem as i see it is that the recording industry (and/or the musicians) try to oppose to the new ways of distributing music. While there is no copy protection, the ability to clone digital media is inherent.

Failed to see my point, well maybe there wasnt one?
Thanks for reading, now ill be quiet for a while. And yeah, i still know its morally wrong.

Re: Bruce Perens: Napster Hurts Free Software (none / 0) (#19)
by Alhazred on Fri May 05, 2000 at 03:35:07 PM EST

Trusted Client is a complete dead horse.

How many times have we seen this sort of nonsense? What band is going to use a distribution channel that forces customers to pay more and get less functionality? If you want to be popular then you will distribute in free channels, period. All trusted client nonsense will do is piss people off and motivate them to pirate things even MORE. No technology can protect data for long. Encryption can be cracked, clever people can engineer devices to unwrap encrypted files, etc. Do you think people somewhere in Outer Mongolia will care one bit about protecting the right of US companies to overcharge? I think we all know the answer to that...

The TRUTH is that music is ALREADY FREE. The revenue model of "you pay me to get to listen to my stuff" is GONE. Its non-viable. It isn't coming back. Morality mean NOTHING next to REALITY. What IS, IS.

I think Bruce recognizes that when he talks about alternative means of supporting musicians (and distributors, they will always exist in some form, they add value). Arguing about the morality of this or that is basically futile. Obviously people have already decided its perfectly acceptable to trade "bootleg" music, so the moral issue is decided already.

That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
Related Brunching Shuttlecocks article (none / 0) (#20)
by fluffy grue on Fri May 05, 2000 at 03:38:18 PM EST

Our favorites, the Brunching Shuttlecocks, have An Open Letter from Metallica in true BS style. Not worth its own article, but I thought I'd bring it to the attention of those here who haven't sold their souls to Mr. Sjöberg yet.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Bruce Perens: Napster Hurts Free Software | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!