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Napster - Abandonware - Freedom

By aquarion in Op-Ed
Thu Jul 19, 2001 at 05:17:44 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

Where were you when you heard about Napster? Personally, I'm not totally sure. It was a fair while before I tried to use the system, and when I did it wasn't very much, But I still belive Napster is A Good Thing and A Bad Thing because I belive in the concept of Abandonware.

Abandonware is software that is now unsupported by the people who originally made it. The term was coined for the Gaming industry for games that - due to the shifting sands of publishers and developers - are no longer either owned or acknowledged by the people who originally created them. There are spots in the darkness, Stuff like Elite - which is still being argued over today, and there are also black holes: Stuff like the ancient Atari games (Pong, Space Invaders, Centipede, etc.) which were bought by Hasbro [1] and turned into Spinny-Rotaty-Neatocool 3D versions. Which were crap. But I digress. There are games that have fallen out of the back catalogue. Like Lemmings 2, originally created by DMA Design for Psygnosis was lost when Psygnosis were bought by Sony. You cannot and will not find this game supported anywhere, because DMA are on to GTA3 and their new bits and are no longer affiliated with Psygnosis (Who own Lemmings, AFAIK), and Psygnosis no longer acknowledge it because it is no longer part of their structure. Vanished.

So people who have the game put it online. There is no way Psygnosis would make money from it anyway, because they don't support it anymore, and there are no new productions. People who want these games actually want these games. But Copyright law means that you can't distribute it unless you are given permission to by the creator/owner. This is why I support (From a distance - I've never actually used it) things like Freeloader, which allows you to download (fairly recent) games in return for eyeballing a few adverts, and I also occasionally trawl the Abandonware sites when - in a fit of nostalgia - I want to play some old game I lost the disks for ages ago, Or owned the Amiga version of, or always wanted to play. I'm digressing again.

To sum up the above paragraph, Abandonware Good. So why Napster Good?

Napster is (was) a fantastic source of the musical equivalent of Abandonware, stuff you would never ever buy, or possibly even find, but could now listen too. Unfortunately with the technology was the ability to put everything online, including all the stuff the record companies are selling in stores up and down the country, across the world. and including the stuff that is actually making artists money. This is coming into the Information Wants To Be Free argument, which is another rant in the brewing, which states that the important thing is the creation of the information or the art, The payment is secondary. Unfortunately it's a necessary secondary, In order to continue the Art you must feed, clothe and house yourself and those dependant on you for food, clothing and shelter, and in the society we live in you cannot do this. Artists and Information Gatherers alike require sponsorship of activities. And if you are giving away for free what they need to sell for money, then you maybe are depriving the future, because they may be forced to give up and do something that actually pays.

Like web design.

(Hint, Do I want to sell my soul? No. In an ideal world, I'd write for a living, or invent websites, Or combine the two and get paid for Aquarionics. This is not an ideal world, so I am job hunting)

This started with Napster, so it goes back. The tracks I have downloaded Napster have been:

Of the above, I have bought the two TMBG albums that contain the tracks I downloaded and the entire TL back catalogue. Some of the Random Whims I would like to buy the albums for but can't because they don't sell/ship them here, some were just random things I wanted to hear again. None of the tracks I haven't bought are things I would actually pay for, usually because they are single tracks from entire albums/box-sets, and not even I will spend 15 on a CD for one track. Unless it's a very good track.

And that's what Napster is good for, the Abandonware tracks you can't get in the shops or at all. But the technology lead to the other stuff coming as well, and so it had to go.

For the record, if Napster were to start charging $10/month or something for the service, I'd be happy to pay. I'd have to give up paying for Ultima Online, but it'd be worth it.

The record companies hit Napster with the large blunt instrument of Law, when the laser-guided precision of negotiation would have been preferable. Napster will die, and 100s of other similar systems will spring up, and have done. But that isn't the point. Lawyers take great delight in playing Whack-a-mole with copycats to the outlawed systems. There needs to be an "official" Napster. And it'd be great if the people who ran the old one could do the Official one, since it worked so well. But they won't. The Record companies are announcing their own Online Music Emporiums, another thing that misses the point entirely, since the whole point of Napster (or even the entire Music Retail industry) is that you can go to one shop and buy from many record labels. You don't need to know that the Divine Comedy are now published by Parlophone and go to their record shop, you just head down to HMV and look under "D". United, the system could stand. Divided it will never get up, let alone fall.

The Music industry needs something like Project Gutenberg, where old music can go to die where everyone can remember it.

[1] Not strictly true, in fact. Atari's games catalogue was bought by Activision (Also holders of Zork and the rest of Infocom's games) who sold it to Hasbro, who have themselves recently sold their Computer Gaming arm, leaving several new games in trouble.


Voxel dot net
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Is (was?) Napster A Good Thing?
o Fantasic, it was a perfect system. RIAA have no appreciation for a good program 10%
o Not perfect, but still a nice idea. Pity it was hit so hard 32%
o Good idea, Poor implimentation 22%
o Couldn't care less 7%
o Not really, They should have realised it was going to be hit 5%
o No. 1%
o It was such a bad idea it's cost money that I'd rather was spent on Britney's new dress 0%
o I am Lars Ulrich 19%

Votes: 67
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Napster
o 1
o Psygnosis
o GTA3
o online
o Freeloader
o They Might Be Giants
o Tom Lehrer
o Ultima Online
o Divine Comedy
o Parlophone
o Gutenberg
o Activision
o Hasbro
o several new games
o Also by aquarion

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Napster - Abandonware - Freedom | 22 comments (18 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
Information Freedom! Blah. (3.66 / 9) (#1)
by chulbert on Wed Jul 18, 2001 at 03:40:14 PM EST

First off, I want to say the record labels were lying their asses off when they whined "Napster is costing us money!" From all the numbers I saw, Napster made a slight financial impact, if any at all, on the music industry.

However, they're still right.

An artist's work, be it book, poem, song, or story, is not "information," it is their creative property. Whether or not they want to release it, whether or not they want to charge for it, or whether or not they want to make it, is entirely their decision. I practically want to barf when someone thinks they should be able to disseminate the sweat and tears of an artist on the Internet under the banner of "fair use" or the slogan "information must be free."

I simply don't understand the notion of "I want it, it doesn't seem to hurt anyone or cost anything, so I should be able to have it." Bzzzzt. Wrong. If what you want belongs to someone, it's theirs, and no matter how much you want it, you can't have it (and shouldn't) unless they say so.

Now the fact that recorld labels exploit artists, take away their work, and control it like their own is completely irrelevant. The material you want so badly still belongs to someone that is not you, so you can't have it.
"I weep for the species."

Oh well.. (4.00 / 4) (#4)
by Rasvar on Wed Jul 18, 2001 at 03:53:08 PM EST

Ever since Napster went 'corporate' and began to fade, I haven't bought a CD. I had gotten use to downloading music, finding something I like and then going to buy the CD because I like CD's for the car. I'm not going to take the time to hunt and guess anymore. I was buying a CD or two a week. I haven't bought in months. Probably won't either. Thier loss.

[ Parent ]
Artists Payment (4.00 / 5) (#6)
by aquarion on Wed Jul 18, 2001 at 04:25:54 PM EST

Exactly, They are correct. Artists deserve compensation for work, as do any creators of content. This is a fact most of the web hasn't seemed to have cottoned onto yet. My point is that there is now a network by which content previously unavailible easily, *is*.

The next stage is a system whereby the artists get paid for people downloading their music, a (and I hesitate to use the word after recent outbreaks of hostilities) Micropayments system.

[ Parent ]

"Theirs" is such a nice simple word. (4.00 / 5) (#8)
by pjc50 on Wed Jul 18, 2001 at 06:15:40 PM EST

By "theirs" I'm assuming you mean "their property". What sort of property?

If we consider a song as a good or chattel, like a piece of furniture is, then this means that when I buy a song from someone, it becomes my property and ceases to be theirs (under common law systems; different things may apply in Roman law or Code Napoleon systems). They lose any right to control what I do with it. I don't think that's what you meant.

This is the big problem with artists and their work: if they want to "protect" it, they shouldn't "sell" it to people. That word creates false expectations of rights..

[ Parent ]
Abandonware, hoarding and fair use (4.33 / 6) (#7)
by Sax Maniac on Wed Jul 18, 2001 at 06:02:34 PM EST

I took a class a while back that dealt with copyright. One of the things I remember was that fair use applies if the copyrighted material is is not available for a fair price.

It seems to me that this is a critical element of copyright. Otherwise, when something is no longer commercially viable, the publisher can withdraw it, or set a ridiculous price on it. This essentially removes the legal usage of the work from society completely, until the copyright expires (which we all know never happens now). This is bad.

I think the question here is: is profiting from abandonware legal? Certainly a pedantic lawyer could somehow argue that putting free abandonware on your website, that has an advertisement banner, constitutues profitting from it.

Now, this gets me wondering about the legality of distributing abandonware online, for both music and software.

Has copyright law been changed recently to avoid this? (I wouldn't be suprised, as Congress appears to be constantly diddling with it, pushing in the wrong direction.)

Or is the problem that Napster was trying to make a buck off it? Certainly, they weren't making a profit on it, any more than the website operator who pays $100/mo in hosting, but takes in $2.35/mo in ad revenue is not making a profit. I can see a copyright owner fairly saying "hey, you're making money off distributing my stuff, please give me a cut of your profits". But I think they have no business telling someone "you can't distribute my stuff, and I refuse to do it myself". That's hoarding, and I think they teach you that is bad somewhere around kindergarten.

This is really important. Copyright must expire and must not be hoarded, otherwise it prevents progress in the name of profits.

Stop screwing around with printf and gdb and get a debugger that doesn't suck.

Abandonware - squatters rights (4.50 / 4) (#9)
by John Milton on Wed Jul 18, 2001 at 07:56:44 PM EST

The common law says that if you don't use your property and someone else claims possession of it, they gain legal ownership of the land. This specifically applies to land, but if we consider truly consider intellectual property as property, someone could possibly make an argument for ownership by adverse possession.

The historical basis is that property shouldn't be hoarded. The law favors whoever will use it. This is limited though. In order to gain property through adverse possession, you must agressively occupy the property and care for it for a certain period of time. Agressively occupy can simply mean putting up a fence. Your occupation of the property has to be exclusive. Caring for the land means that you have made some improvements to it.

It would be interesting to see a defense of abandonware from this angle.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
making a buck (none / 0) (#17)
by evin on Thu Jul 19, 2001 at 03:52:37 PM EST

One of the original rationales for copyright was to offset the expense of buying a press and setting type. The founders didn't want publishing to be restricted to the wealthy or those who the government decided to have a worthwhile message. So, ironically, copyright was intended as a vehicle of free, uncensored, speech.

Originally it didn't make any sense to restrict people violating copyright without receiving profit. Even though libraries significantly reduced the profit of authors, they were allowed because they furthered the dissemination of ideas. There weren't many things people *could* do which made sense to do without making profit.

Along came BBSes trading software without charging or benefiting from the copyright infringements. So Congress passed the No Electronic Theft act, which makes it a crime to violate copyright without charging money.

With Napster, they're being charged with contributory copyright infringement. Their users are violating copyright without money changing hands. However, for the contributory part, one of the things to look at is whether Napster is benefiting. And even if they're not making money, they can benefit through stock prices and future contracts.


[ Parent ]

There is no music abandonware (2.00 / 1) (#10)
by Aquarius on Thu Jul 19, 2001 at 01:12:59 AM EST

See, one of the key arguments for software abandonware is that the software has been superseded by newer versions, better games, whatever. That you couldn't sell the stuff if you tried -- who wants to buy Manic Miner when they can buy Black & White instead? I think it's pretty clear that people trading copies of B&W without payment are not claiming some kind of moral "abandonware" high ground. It's not clear to me that people won't buy copies of Manic Miner anyway, I have to say. Anyway, even assuming that the above is the case, and software companies won't be able to sell their old software (and hence should give it away), that has no bearing on the world of music. The sorts of music you're talking about are not unavailable because they've been superseded, they're unavailable because they're unknown. This is not the same thing at all. The fact that it would be a good thing to get to know these unknown artists does, by no stretch of the term, mean people should be trading their music for free. Solving this problem is exactly what things like mp3.com (despite their apparent poor management and processes) are for -- a place where an individual artist can get their music known to a wider world.

Ah, you say, but I wasn't talking about unknown artists. I was talking about unavailable tracks by known artists, like They Might Be Giants, or Random Whims. Well, either they're available or they're not. If they're available somewhere, then they can be got, and pretty cheaply too, I suspect -- I mean, if they can't be got hold of in HMV, why not look in other countries? This sort of thing is a part of why the net is a good thing, surely -- that it's country-agnostic. If it's not available, then maybe it's not available for a reason. Would you feel as comfortable downloading a song from Napster if you discovered that the reason it wasn't on sale is that the band hated it and wanted it pulled from the back catalogue?


"The grand plan that is Aquarius proceeds apace" -- Ronin, Frank Miller
How about Open Source Music, etc? (none / 0) (#13)
by Orion Blastar on Thu Jul 19, 2001 at 11:43:05 AM EST

What if artists made some of their songs Open Sourced, as in the Open Source software licenses? That way they own it, it can be reproduced and used in other open source music projects. They also can make money off of selling the CDs, and it can be passed on via Napster as an MP3? It would be a good way to promote some of their songs and let them get noticed to get contracts. They can keep most of their other songs under the normal copyrights, but produce Open Sourced songs when they want to be noticed?

Also we need more open sourced games, develop them to work like commercial games, but they are open sourced. Like FreeCiv a free clone of Civilization. If the game is abandoned why not make a game just like it and open source it and port it to other platforms? Just make it different enough so that you cannot get sued. Don't use any source code from the original either.
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
[ Parent ]

Open Sourced Music? (none / 0) (#14)
by darthaya on Thu Jul 19, 2001 at 12:02:14 PM EST

How does that work? Everyone can just simply download the source instead of paying for it?
I am sure every artist with a clear mind will love it. I mean, yeah, other than making a living out of producing music, they can live in a dark basement and get a part time in gas station, can't they?

[ Parent ]
You missed my point (none / 0) (#15)
by Orion Blastar on Thu Jul 19, 2001 at 02:24:55 PM EST

I didn't say all their songs, only a few of them. That way they can let the fans pass around the open source songs and become more popular. Once they get more popular, they can start selling commercial songs on CD and play them in concert and get those contracts.

Open source can work for them, if they know how to use it properly. Think about it.
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
[ Parent ]

Open Audio License (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by Nikolai on Fri Jul 20, 2001 at 04:16:18 AM EST

You mean like the Open Audio License?

I like cheese.
[ Parent ]

Yes, that's it! Thanks! (none / 0) (#20)
by Orion Blastar on Fri Jul 20, 2001 at 10:12:45 AM EST

Thanks for pointing it out to me, it sounds good!
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
[ Parent ]
Old games and old copyrighted stuff (none / 0) (#12)
by Orion Blastar on Thu Jul 19, 2001 at 10:06:56 AM EST

Even if the company that made the product went out of business or got bought out, someone will still own the copyright. Even if it is Corporate Undertakers than just buy up the old property of the company and don't know what they own. Eventually they will take inventory and then, hey someone is giving away the products we own! Time to call in the lawyers and shut them down!

US Copyrights last for, IIRC, 75 years. Which means by the time they become public domain, it won't matter because they will be so out of date that there may even be Psionic 4D versions of the game or music by then. :)

But the problem comes down to this: "What happens if your disk suffers from 'BIT Rot' and you lose the data for the game/song you bought?" Do you have a right to back up that data, (Burn a CDR copy, rip a MP3 file, Zip up the install files, etc) for archiving. Then if you didn't do that, and still own the right to have a copy, is it legal to get a copy from someone who did archive their copy? Is it still piracy even if you own the material you are getting from someone else? That is the big question here. Or should you just buy another copy? What if you lost the install disks?
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***

not 75 years (none / 0) (#16)
by evin on Thu Jul 19, 2001 at 02:57:03 PM EST

Before the passage in 1998 of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, not counting possible complexities with pre-1962 works, copyright lasted 75 years from date of publication for works done for hire and 50 years from death of the author for other works. The CTEA lengthened this to 95 years for works for hire and life + 70 years for others. So if I make a game outside of a job and die five years later, then indeed the copyright lasts 75, but this is just a coincidence. More common is the case where I write a game at age 21 and perhaps live to be 76. The copyright would remain on it for 125 years. If I'm writing the game for a company it would remain for 95 years. Of course, that's assuming we don't further lengthen copyright.

As computer hardware continue to change, it's quite likely even POSIX-ish systems won't make much sense in 125 years, much less DOS environments suitable for running games. And just imagine trying to find 5 1/4" drives...

[ Parent ]

Ah but, emulators (none / 0) (#18)
by Orion Blastar on Thu Jul 19, 2001 at 08:19:42 PM EST

there will most likely be emulators running the old code, and people already copying the disks to ZIP files and ROMs to files to use with the em emulators.

But as you said, try finding the older 5 1/4 inch drives, they won't make them anymore, right? Better archive today while we still have them. :)
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
[ Parent ]

Something interesting popped up recently... (none / 0) (#21)
by ncc74656 on Sun Jul 22, 2001 at 02:04:40 AM EST

...on comp.sys.apple2 WRT abandonware. There's plenty of heat and not much light on this subject in this newsgroup (and probably in groups for other vintage boxen). At some point, the discussion turned to Copy II Plus (a nibble copier for making backups of copy-protected software...think DeCSS for Apple II software, only years before the evil DMCA). At that point, somebody mentioned that he works at Symantec and asked around as to why old software like Copy II Plus couldn't be released as at least freeware (as in beer). His explanation went something like this: Several years ago, Symantec acquired Central Point Software, the company that produced Copy II Plus. Since the product was acquired, they're not sure if they own the program free-and-clear or if there's someone else's bits of code mixed in with it. If they could ascertain that Copy II Plus is all theirs, they would have no problem with making it freely available. However, the legal expenses associated with clearing up the matter could be considerable...they'd almost certainly be more than they could ever get from making Copy II Plus available, even if they put it back on the market and started selling it again.

OTOH, he also said that Symantec doesn't intend to jump down anyone's throat if you should snag Copy II Plus from certain abandonware archives. They seem to have a balanced view of things; they seem to realize that grabbing something like Copy II Plus off an abandonware archive isn't exactly the same as swiping pcAnywhere 10 from the warez groups.

It would be nice if this were a more common attitude. Maybe it is, but no company is likely to go on record with this kind of statement. It should also be noted that the poster more than likely wasn't speaking for Symantec. The message in question is available through Google, if you want to go straight to the source. Your news server might still have it, too; it was only posted three days ago.

Some points. (none / 0) (#22)
by Kasreyn on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 08:02:44 PM EST

1. Napster did not invent mp3's.

2. Napster did not do anything special or new.

3. Napster did not give you mp3's, other people gave you mp3's. Napster just facilitated.

4. Napster sold out like a little corporate bitch.

So when you ask me where I was when I first heard about Napster, don't expect me to care. All I know for sure is that I was thinking, "What a STUPID name!"

Professional Shawn Fanning Guts-Hater.

"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Napster - Abandonware - Freedom | 22 comments (18 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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