Napster: just free stuff

I'm an advocate of open source, free software and free speech. But some of the catchphrases of the open source generation are really beginning to annoy me, as do many of the attitudes of the people who chant them and abuse them for personal gain. Take this mantra: "Information wants to be free". Bollocks. Information doesn't want anything. People want information to be free.

The fact is that our current system entitles us to some free information, and it requires us to purchase or license other information. You may not like the "fact that some information must be licensed, but that's how it is. Those who want information to be free as a matter of principle should create some information and make it free. They should encourage others to do likewise. But what they shouldn't do is license or buy existing information that is not free and then cut it loose without permission. That's just plain wrong, and people who do it are demonstrating that what they are interested in is not free speech, but getting stuff without having to pay for it.

This is the problem I have with the Napster controversy. Napster is a fine technology that could be put to good use. But, so far, the controversy over Napster doesn't seem to be about free speech, but rather about free stuff. It's about a technology that makes it possible to circumvent the intent of publishing music on CDs. Napster is being used to distribute music that was never intended to be shared in such a fashion; so far, few people have suffered severe consequences, and that's the reason the controversy persists. But the situation could change.

Look, this music was intended to be distributed only via commercial media like CDs, with the expectation that you would buy the CD if you wanted to listen to it any time. If you want to share that music with your friends, you lend out your CDs. If you can't part with your collection, then you buy copies for your friends. That's the way the system is structured. Deal with it. If you want the system to change, then change it the way Linux has changed the complexion of software. Change it by recording new music with musicians who buy into your new way of distributing music.

Let me put this another way. If this is really about principles and not greed, then I would like to issue a challenge to you Napster advocates who insist that this is a matter of free speech. I suggest you create a new peer-to-peer networking system for software. I'll call this hypothetical system Crookster. I challenge you to make all your favorite commercial software applications freely available to anyone who downloads the Crookster client. But don't do this anonymously like the warez doodz and crackers do. Do it for the cause, because you believe that information truly wants to be free.

And here's a tip for those who genuinely want to draw media attention to your righteous cause. I suggest you start by sharing your copy of Windows 2000 with the world. I guarantee you'll get coverage on all the major networks.

Which brings me to my point. Have you noticed that few (if any) Napster advocates are arguing that it should be legal to purchase a copy of Windows 2000 and share it with a community of Windows fans on the Internet via a peer-to-peer networking system? Why not? Is it because there are no fans or potential fans of Windows 2000? Or is it because people know that if they tried it, Microsoft's lawyers would have them thrown in the can before they could finish next morning's Weetbix?

People are already addressing the issue of free software the right way. Instead of subverting an existing system of commercial software, they are creating new, open source software and publishing it. Others are trying to find ways of making money by selling and supporting this free software.

Likewise, if people want music to be free, they should create free music and find new ways to distribute it. And if there's a way to make money on this, someone will find it. We all have the right and opportunity to create new ways of doing things. We do not have a right to subvert existing systems just because we have the technology to do so and want free stuff.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?