Napster's recent announcement of its agreement with Bertelsmann AG -- the parent company of BMG, one of five recording companies suing Napster for copyright infringement -- to move to a for-pay system is sure to meet resistance in the online community. After all, music lovers have had the luxury of free MP3 exchange for over a year. How will Napster now survive after putting a price on its service?
It won't. Napster isn't the cause of an information revolution, it's the result of one. Because of this, another Napster will arrive in a slightly different form once the current incarnation loses its appeal to users. Technology has created the potential for peer-to-peer communications, and there's no going back.
The record companies have long enjoyed the leverage of being able to overprice their goods because consumers had nowhere else to get them. Now, the balance of power has shifted to consumers as they become able to subvert the traditional supply chains -- and high prices -- entirely.
But just as action by the FTC was appropriate in containing the unfair price gouging perpetrated by the recording industry, federal action is again needed to correct the imbalance created when millions of consumers wantonly violate copyright laws. The recording industry will find a technological solution to its problem (just as film studios engineered a copy-protection scheme on their video releases), but this solution will only be effective if it's helped by the courts and Congress.
Lawsuits and lawsuits alone won't be enough to contain the power of the Internet and peer-to-peer exchanges, but they will be essential to an efficient restoration of an equilibrium between the industry and consumers.
Farewell With Gratitude
Susan Marine, Coordinator of the Sexual Abuse Awareness Program for the past four and a half years, will be moving this month to the world beyond Dartmouth. In her years at the College, she has offered a tremendous service to the campus and her presence will be missed.
As Coordinator of the Sexual Abuse Awareness Program, Susan Marine did not have an easy job. Sexual abuse and assault are emotionally charged issues and working against their presence on this campus is a complicated matter -- but Marine's empathetic character enabled her to offer a lasting service to the College community. She not only fulfilled her responsibilities as Coordinator, but she expanded the support network available to Dartmouth students. It will be difficult to find a replacement with Marine's compassion and dedication.