- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2000

When everyone from college students to employees at the State Department cannot keep their hands off the Internet site Napster and the free music available there, the music industry must listen to this roar.

It's a consumer age and consumers are stating their case very clearly: The recording industry and the movie industry as well has not been willing to follow the pace of the speeding Internet and what's possible for them there.

As Clayton M. Christensen writes in "The Innovative Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail," it's important for firms to redefine the competitive landscape of their respective markets and concentrate on customers' future needs. These are needs which in the particular case of Napster already seem to be fading into the past.

History has a way of repeating itself. In the case of Napster the issue of free music is floating on the river of historic events side by side with the Betamax case from 1984 about VCRs and even earlier quarrels about the Xerox machine and the printing press in the beginning of the century.

Copyright violations? Yes, but there is something to be done about that. New electronic locks, encrypting and watermarks are on the rise to help artists prevent mass-distribution of their product without their consent. Sites like EMusic could be an inspiration with an agreement with the major record labels and a fee of $9.99 a month that enables people to download selections from among 125,000 different songs. That's for the computer people to work out.

Right now the Napster case is not just about copyright laws and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. This is a case of adapting to the New Economy and changing the way business, and in this case distribution, has been done for ages. Apparently the large music companies, such as EMI Recorded Music, Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, are beginning to launch song subscriptions on the Internet by the end of the year. However, that's been too slow for an increasing number of Internet users the latest number from the Department of Commerce is about 140 million in the United States and Canada. When Napster vs. The Recording Industry of America goes on trial in mid-September in San Francisco, the judge should consider that Napster in many ways has facilitated the distribution of music into the Digital Age.

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