- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2001

Madeleine Aimee Deep is sitting on a sofa in the bar of the W Hotel on Manhattan's Union Square, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top, and telling of the time she came up against Michael Eisner of Disney and Harvey Weinstein of Miramax.
"It was a little bit of a scare," she says, her eyes widening. Then she giggles. Aimee is just 16.
The meeting was frightening not simply because she had found herself in the company of two of the richest and most powerful men in show business. These two Hollywood heavyweights were as mad as hell with the bottle-blond teen-ager. To them, she was, and is, a pirate stealing their gold, and they would like to see young Aimee out of business and a few of her customers slapped in jail.
"Wow," she goes on, "they were pretty mean."
Aimee is the face — the "spokesmodel" — for an Internet service that, with 4.5 million users and rising, is picking up the baton from the world-renowned Napster in the battle between new and old media.
Aimster.com, her eponymous Web site, is fast becoming, like Napster before it, the place to download free pop music, and thus diddle both the performers and the entertainment corporations out of what they consider to be their rightful cut.
Corporate bosses do not, generally speaking, like to be diddled out of their percentages. Aimee found this out when she went with her father (and business partner), Johnny Deep, to a "New Establishment" conference called Innovators and Navigators, held by Talk magazine's Tina Brown under the palm trees of Santa Barbara, Calif.
Aimee was thrilled to be able to abandon her high school classes in a backwater New York milltown to attend a debate on "Intellectual Property: Innovation vs. the Law" — which is a formal but succinct way of describing the battle over copyright that was brought to a head by Shawn Fanning's Napster brain wave.
Aimee and her dad assumed they had been invited to the Talk conference to explore grounds for a truce, away from lawyers and judges. "I thought it would be a 'Hi! how are you?' situation," says Aimee. "But they didn't even let us speak at the panel." Instead, Disney's Eisner agreed with a proposal that the "industry" should work to slap 10 "students" in jail for breaching copyright, and then advertise their fate as a warning to others.
"It was a signal that they are intent on going to battle," says Johnny Deep. "It is going to be a war. Not just with us, but with the entire industry. We are entering a whole new era: What will the Internet be? Is it going to be free or restricted? Is it going to be private, or not private at all, but policed by people who think they can make money?"
Napster has already been bludgeoned into what amounts to submission — a compromise whereby, through a subscription service, it will pay royalties on copyrighted music — and Aimster.com is next in the firing line.
Aimee seems an unlikely pirate, but her 43-year-old father, it turns out, could be just the man to fly the skull and crossbones in a war over copyright.
For a start, he has the looks: He is slightly saturnine, with a couple of days worth of salt-and-pepper stubble in the hollows of his cheeks and bruised, computer-screen eyes peering out from behind his glasses.
He credits his daughter with giving him the idea for Aimster.com three years ago, when she was 13 years old.
It was one of those light-bulb moments: How, she wanted to know, could she be sure that no one was snooping when she was chatting to her buddies on-line? The answer was: She could not.
The idea she proposed to her father was to create a new type of software to protect her privacy. It is, essentially, an encryption code service that father and daughter are now selling.
"This is an example of why, with the Internet, it is a very good idea to listen to the kids and hear what they need and want," says Mr. Deep. "They point to the market. And I am pretty good at recognizing other people's ideas. We got going on this one right away."
What Aimster really is, he says with a sly smile, is a secure "file-sharing" system. It is impossible for anyone to know if the secret files whizzing through the ether via Aimster.com contain schoolgirl chit-chat, the latest coprighted pop song or something else entirely.
As for Aimee, "I was just sharing pictures with my friends and talking about guys," she says.
"It is just like the days of pirate radio,"says Paul Boutin, an editor at Wired magazine. "People are finding ways to tap into something that they think should be available, but others think they own. This is the next electronic culture clash."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide