- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

More on the ongoing music wars: As perhaps everyone and all their brothers and sisters know, a while back an outfit called Napster appeared on the Web. It allowed people to send music to each other across the Internet. If you wanted "Hound Dog," you pretty much just entered it in a search box, pressed return and Elvis poured onto your hard drive.
This of course sent the record companies into squalling, clawing fury because they weren't getting the high profits that come from having a monopoly on music and on selling CDs. Through debatable legal means they shut Napster down. A lot people figured, OK, that was that, and anyway it was just some kid thing.
No. It was, and is, much more. At stake are major questions regarding privacy in the age of the Net specifically: To what extent corporations can spy electronically on individuals? The music war is a big deal, and its consequences, whatever they turn out to be, will be with us for a long time.
And the problem assuredly did not go away with Napster.
To begin with, let's look at the scale of music sharing today which, by the way, is not merely a teenage issue. Huge numbers of adults download music.
If you were to go to Song Download World, a big download site (song-download-world.com), you would find a box giving stats on the volume of usage. A couple of days ago when I went to the site, the figures were these:
Number of users online: 1,824,429. Number of songs shared: 92,876,395. Thirty million people are registered, the site says.
This isn't small potatoes. Various studies show that the rate of downloading is growing. The reasons are not purely financial. People would rather burn a CD with just songs they like than buy a CD with two songs they want and 12 they don't.
Another figure distressing the entertainment industry: Number of movies shared, 123,965,404. Something is wrong with this latter statistic, since movies today take a long time to download.
However, a movie is simply a large digital file. The Internet doesn't care what the zeros and ones represent. As broadband becomes more common, sending movies will become easy.
From the download site: "There are never any limits on the number of songs, software or movies you can download. We teach you all of the tricks of the trade and give you the best tutorials to get you started right away!"
Software. Do you pay $600 for Microsoft Office, or do you download it for the price of blank CDs? Right or wrong, people download in droves.
Interestingly, the site adds "adult content filter available to block xxx material from children." This implies that parents don't mind if their kids download music, but don't want them to get porn.
So what, you ask. The only way the industry can stop people from sharing files music, movies, e-books, porn is by intrusion into people's lives and computers. The battle is complicated, with a constant stream of measures being tried, proposed, and fought over behind the scenes. Starting shortly this column will look at them in detail. Among the measures the entertainment industry has suggested:
Requiring manufacturers of hard drives to build in circuitry to prevent you from doing things that would violate copyright. This inevitably would make doing legitimate operations with files difficult.
Requiring Internet service providers to supply information on individuals suspected of sharing music. Your kid downloads something by Pink Floyd, so AOL has to supply data on the account owner, meaning you. Verizon is currently involved in legal proceedings over this.
Allowing music companies remotely to search computers to find downloaded files from music-sharing sites.

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