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Centralization vs. Decentralization:
Can't We All Just Get Along?
By Mothmonster Man and the Brownie Monsters
    Kory Boulier, William Emery, Ian Larsson, and David Smith

“Napster: It is the future, in my opinion. That's the way music is going to be communicated around the world..."
-- Dave Matthews

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has been fighting the downloading of music illegally since the early 1990’s. As a collective entity, the RIAA has been using the fact that the music is copyrighted material, therefore making distribution of it illegal without paying for it beforehand. This is a very valid point on their behalf, as legal interpretation takes precedence over any form of rebuttal. Yet sometimes it is best to move away from the past to open a more promising future.

The major argument we are presenting in this case however is that the downloading of music helps bands create revenue, instead of eliminating it. When an individual such as one of my group members, hypothetically downloads a song of a new band, we become interested in the band if we find it appealing. Because of this interest in the new band, we would download more songs, and in turn go and buy their album(s) creating another customer for their cause.

This kind of downloading was made possible in 1999, when 18-year-old Shawn Fanning created a revolutionary downloading program named Napster. This created a new way to get music without dealing with the high cost of compact discs. The RIAA eventually charged Napster with tributary copyright infringement, which means that Napster isn’t in direct violation of copyright infringement, but is in violation of aiding others in participating in such actions.

Due to Napster being sent under because of the RIAA’s constant legal attacks on it, other programs started to emerge, such as Morpheus. Over time, programs like Morpheus morphed into other programs such as Kazaa, because they too became in violation with the RIAA. The amazing part is that Kazaa has managed to survive since some of us were in junior high and high school.

Following up in the early 2000's a few website emerged, encouraging artists to upload their music for others to download. Websites such as myspace music and purevolume.com did just that, allowing users to download certain songs from an album, and creating a legal downloading process. Unlike programs such as Limewire and Kazaa, the bands can choose which songs they want to upload to purevolume.com and myspace, instead of just sharing every single song a person can fit onto their hard drive. This allows people to develop an interest based on only a few tracks.

Furthering the thoughts of allowing more legal downloading, we as a group believe that purevolume.com and myspace music should allow the bands to upload one album to their servers, so that a person can truly get a feel for what the band can produce. If they were to set some sort of limit though on how many times a track can be accessed, it could create a potential RIAA utopia, while the consumer can still get music for free. If only we (the downloading community) could come to some sort of progressive agreement with the RIAA, we could all expand on economical giant, somehow pleasing both side of the fight.

“The new rules are music sharing, music distribution, music exposure are now globalized.” –Chuck D

Posted 2005-11-08 10:19:03 by Yvette Tardiff
Comments on this story... (toggle all)

Can you decentralize a giant? [Jon Ippolito, 2005-12-21 06:08:39]

I like the upbeat tone of this article, and the fact that its conclusion hints at a specific suggestion for a means for the RIAA and decentralized efforts like MySpace and PureVolume to work together.

That said, my understanding is that MySpace and PureVolume are for indie bands rather than established ones. MySpace for example includes a policy to the effect that "You may not post, distribute, or reproduce in any way any copyrighted material, trademarks, or other proprietary information without obtaining the prior written consent of the owner of such proprietary rights."

So while these less centralized sites might help indie musicians get noticed, I don't see how they're going to help the RIAA sell records it has already published.

The optimist in me says that maybe the RIAA could profit from the marketing data gleaned from such sites--and there is evidence that they already do mine p2p services for such information (with one hand, while they sue them with the other!).

However, the pessimist in me doubts whether the music labels--or any centralized monopoly, for that matter--will ever be interested in the "long tail" of niche music makers and lovers. Maybe one of you someday will prove me wrong :)


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