NAPSTERING REVISITEDThis is regarding Paul D. Lehrman's October 2000 Insider Audio Column, "Caught Napstering." A crucial point that Lehrman and others seem to overlook frequently in the Napster/MP3 debate is that this issue affects people other than just recording artists and record labels. Song-writers (many of whom are not recording artists) and publishers (many of which are not monolithic record companies) stand to lose serious money from digital theft, unless some method of fair compensation is put into practice. Every time a college kid downloads a song from someone else's computer using Napster, that student has stolen a piece of intellectual property. He has not borrowed it from a library (or a friend) with the promise to return it. He has not copied it from a CD that he has already purchased. He has not taped it off the broadcast airwaves. He has stolen it, plain and simple. And, by doing so, he has deprived a songwriter (or two, or three) and a publisher (or two, or three) of income, regardless how small, that was legally owed them.
I appreciate the fact that the technology genie cannot be put back in the bottle. Artists, writers, record companies and publishers are all going to have to learn to accept and deal with the ever-changing landscape that is the music business. And I have no problem with the legitimate concept of "fair use." But stealing music via Napster is not "fair use" as Lehrman implies. He also makes a huge false assumption when he supposes that only recording artists and their record labels are in this particular fight. Those of us who write music for a living, and who depend on the sale of other people's products (and the subsequent collection and disbursement of royalties), have a great deal of genuine concern about this issue.