How do you think songwriters will be affected by the RIAA/Napster court battle? Do you believe copyright will survive the evolution of the net?
Marie Swan Black
A songwriter from Portland, OR, writes:
As for the Napster battle, hopefully it will bring to public awareness the songwriters who are still scrambling to make a living, but then does the general public care about the unknowns? I don't think so. One thing I'm certain of is that right now there are dozens of software engineers who are trying to write the best program that will address this problem effectively and fairly. Already services like MP3 are working with the copyright laws and the artists effectively. I am an enthusiastic advocate for the advancement of technology. Its advancement in our field may be just the ticket for little or unknown songwriters/performers to get our music out there where it should be--that is "being heard!" With millions of music consumers on the web every day, web-based music purchasing gives hope to frustrated artists who are sick of their local music sceens and exhausted by dealing with all the flakes in the club world.
A songwriter from Long Island, New York, writes:
I think the Napster battle is really smoke and mirrors. Large scale copying of MP3 files will go on regardless. If not through Napster, then through an uncentralized and untrackable service like Gnutella. The REAL issue is who controls the distribution and copyright on music; the RIAA would prefer to be the ones doing it (for example, they tried get the US Congress to declare all commercial recordings to be "for hire" works; the label would own your stuff unless you went independent. Obviously, it's not always in your best interests to let someone else control your stuff (although sometimes it may be).
A teenage musician from Texas, writes:
Being young, and growing up with computers and the internet, my generation is fully suportive of Napster and similar services. However, it is wrong to cheat artists out of enough money to live. The internet is a great tool for unsigned bands to get their music out, but it also has made buying recordings no longer necessary or common in the world in which kids such as myself live in. Music will eventually be free. We can not turn back the clock. Musicians need to accept this fact and look for a solution. Some possible ways would be to simply raise tickets to concerts to generate the income. Lowering the cost of CDs to a reasonable amount would incourage purchasing recordings for packaging, quality, and material value. However current professional musicians decide to deal with this will only effect music for a short time. There are many in the youth scene who welcome change and look forward to the future.
A songwriter from Wisconsin who didn't tell me anything about himself so now I get to make up stories about him :-) , writes:
Well, hell yeah we're gonna be affected. I had Napster for two days before my conscience got the best of me. As a writer I am a man of conscience and principle (gots to stand before you can deliver) and I had an epiphany: THOSE guys aren't getting paid by Napster and I won't either. Granted, music is for sharing but it's a business. Period. Puppies go home and lick your wounds,this is for the dawgs.
Guitarist in a band from New Hampshire, surfing the net late at night, writes:
I think most songwriters that are in it for the right reasons are affected by Napster in a good way. Singers/songwriters that are in this for music should be happy that Napster is out there for everyone to hear their music. Most young songwriters start out thinking of nothing but music and how they can be heard, but when they get older it's all about the money. Napster is a good thing for good people. I think Napster is good for the whole music industry, even if they don't know it yet. Just like when blank tapes came out, music didn't suffer from it! It's the same thing with Napster.
A bassist / vocalist / writer from R.I., VA, writes:
I think copyright will survive, but not due to legal strength or bullying, i.e. the RIAA, but instead to the value of well published and produced music; marketing will always win, people are too dumb. Otherwise people would have stopped buying CD's a long time ago and just swapped tapes. Many do, but many more just jump into the pile and buy the CD for any number of reasons. As a songwriter, it's just another outlet to be heard, hell, I've got nothing to lose yet.
An independennt songwriter/arranger/producer from Georgia, writes:
I think, in the long run, that songwriters will come out okay. In order for Napster to exist, the writers had to have already had music published, recorded and purchased by the members who share. Because the library of available music is so vast, it is doubtful that the individual writer will lose very much potential residuals. Somehow, the copyright will survive the internet. For one reason, I suggest that the internet will never replace having a real copy in one's hands. I realize that CD's can be burned from music over the internet. In that area, I'm afraid that some form of licening must be created.
An Aussie songwriter, writes:
I hope & think songwriters will always benefit whenever information and material is expedited. The internet medium is a perfect vehicle for reaching the masses quickly and it is inevitable that it survives. Copyright however! will as it has always been, be at the mercy of the newest genre of assassins. Pre-registration of materials, copyright, ROM etc. Are not sufficient enough. A large paradigm shift is needed and a new culture created, in order to protect and reward the artist - this will not happen ovenight. Until it does, artists unfortunately will be the ones to lose out, as in the days before copyright. But the truth will prevail, those deserving will eventually receive, but sacrifices are being and will continue to be made.
A songwriter/producer from Ontario Canada, writes:
Major league writers will suffer in the context of their music being in demand and missing out on royalties. However the amount of cash they make in the legitimate industry stops me short of crying the blues for them. Independants face the dilemma of needing to get their songs heard plus the fear of someone ripping them off. Get your song officially copyrighted first, then put it out. If someone of note rips it off then you have recourse. Then again I know some writers who are terrible yet they seem the most concerned. Napster and other MP3 sites should stop the major artists from releasing albums with only one or two good songs on them. Enuf filler tunes already. Plus the packaging should improve.
Mark A. McMullen
A lyricist, acoustic guitarist from Idaho, writes:
Times change! Simple as that. We all know the internet is changing the way business is transacted in every aspect of society. Why should music be any different? As far as the effects on songwriters, only time will tell. We must learn to accept change with grace, and adapt. Napster can be a very useful tool, allowing mass distribution of someones work. But how do we profit from it? User fees? I'm willing to pay. The fact is, if Napster goes away, another program will take it's place. You can't stop people from sharing if they choose to. I say, take it, mold it, and embrace it! Copyright laws, like anything else, will have to adapt. In this day, EVERYONE is a writer! I do not believe in their current form, they will survive. Welcome to the Twenty-first century...
A longtime Lone Star lesbian lampoon artist from TX, writes:
I'm not sure songwriting will be affected by Napster. Mine certainly won't be. Geez, I'd be delighted to have my music up or downloaded or listen to, for that matter. But then I actually do believe in abundance and that fans and music lovers will suvive the internet. I think there will always be folks to buy CDs or whatever format develops. I'll bet many of the napster music lovers wouldn't have been buying those CDs anyway.
A Guitar-Slinging Poet from PA, writes:
Songwriters themselves won't suffer much, but performers will. Now, I like free stuff just as much as the next guy, but if Napster keeps growing at its current rate, and people stop buying albums (a highly possible conclusion,)then no one's going to keep paying people to play music. On the other hand, Napster's a good thing, in that it allows people to "sample" new music, or listen to a band they're interested in, before making the $15 investment in an album. Kind of like renting a video game before buying it. But a lot of people use Napster as an alternative to paying for music, which could very well spell doom for performing artists everywhere.
Super Duper International Rock Star (to be!) from Toronto, Canada, writes:
Copyright *can* survive the net but absolutely will not with the current "music lover's" mindset that good music should be free. We need a different distribution model. Somebody has to devote their lives to the creation of the music, somebody has to pay for recording, and possibly pay for promotion, but we do NOT necessarily require big record companies to press and distribute physical recordings. The technology is *easily* in place today to distribute electronically, and listeners can burn their own CDs. What we require is a distribution system that will allow listeners to download songs on the basis of paying the writer/artist/publisher mechanical royalties. Perhaps 8 or 12 or 16 or whatever CENTS per song?!? I'm certain that music lovers would be more than happy to register with a reputable service (Napster II??!?) and pay such a tiny sum. Even the totally rabid Napster user, with 5,000 songs - currently stolen - would be paying $500 to $800 for all of this! With a recognized and licensed distribution system, Napster might no longer be a peer-to-peer endeavour where sheer luck finds you the song you want. They can retain an ever-growing library of real performances for cheap download! Let the indies start the model rolling, and when critical mass of users is reached, established artists can move to electronic distribution. There will always be techno-geek theives who will find a way to break through any means of electronic protection. But as the cost for legitimate and honest listeners to access all the music they want goes lower and lower (i.e. CENTS per song), the prime factor motivating this type of theft will all but vanish! So C'mon Napster - reinvent yourself in a way the world can enjoy fairly !!!! I'll PAY!
A Utah boy who strayed, writes:
I would be happy if all the copyright laws went away. If there was a lot less music for money, there would be a lot more music for music's sake. For years the music industry has been rabidly following trends in search of bigger sales. Granted, most of the trends have been started by musicians playing so much from their hearts that their music connects with whole generations. But then come the imitators (who usually make more money than the originals), and their imitators, on and on until all the hard edges that made the music real have been polished away, leaving us with music to shop to.
A Songwriter/Musician/Producer from Portland, OR, writes:
An earlier issue arose out of the need to police cover tunes being used in a club setting. Clubs pay dues to ASCAP to keep tabs on the use of copyrighted material. It would be stupid to ignore the impact of modern technology in the music field. If we close down the Napster model it will only be replaced by non-proxy versions (i.e. gnutella) and we will all lose. It is better for us to impose a monitoring policy on companies like Napster to keep tabs on lost revenues. Just think of the marketing information that could be obtained by looking at download trends. We need to expand current copyright and HRA criteria to work within the framework of the modern world.
A brazilian songwriter, writes:
I believe that the free music traffic on the net is something that nobody can control. It's a reality today and we can't avoid that. The Big Record Companies will have to change their way of doing business and the record business will be more democratic in the future. Here, in Brazil, the biggest problem is that the songwriting community doesn't know that music can be produced and promoted on a computer. This possibility is a huge acomplishment for us (the songwriters). More than ever, the talent will make the difference.
A singer, guitar player and beginning song writer from Australia, (I pay the rent as a software developer), writes:
I think the court case will affirm our right to rewarded for people accessing our work regardless of the way they get it, but that it will recognise technology like Napster suits many people better than traditional marketing and distribution. It'll be a slap over the wrist for music marketing and for pirates but won't resolve any of the issues. I think that most people are happy to pay performers, what we need are methods for delivering songs, properly paid for, that are as easy as tools like Napster. Copyright (identifying yourself as the creator of a piece) may be easier with the internet. The real problem is discouraging piracy by making it easy to review and purchase the music (or text or what ever) in the formats the audience wants.
Ray E. Strode
A Songwriter/Music Purchaser, Etc. from Brunswick GA, writes:
In general I think this will mostly turn out to be a fad. It seems the younger group is into it (College Students), but such things have always happened. The latest this or the latest that. I think the music industry will survive as most people will still want a hard copy(CD) or whatever. I know I do. My grandson, 16 was asking me how to get to Napster on his computer. I guess I'll have to whack him one! No I guess not. He does like some classical music also so I think the music industry will survive just fine.
A jazz pianist from Toronto, Canada, writes:
I don't use MP3s as surrogates for albums - I use them to explore artists' catalogues that I've only heard in passing. I don't think that copyright will be harmed by the Internet (in fact there is a Napster-ish website that pays the writers). I think the only writers who may be harmed are those who write the same kind of song over and over again and recycle it to different artists.
A singer/songwriter from Canada, writes:
In my opinion the net is a unique medium all its own. Let me explain. Being a songwriter myself you might think I am against Napster. That is not the case. I have used napster to put songs on my computer that I already have in other forms, eg; tape,CD etc. I use it to listen to artists that I'm curious about but dont want to commit to buying an album, I actually have purchased albums because of this, an ex. would be a Diana Krall CD. and lastly I download them to learn for playing in a weekend cover band. Humans are thing driven which is to say that they need to actually hold or physically own an object to feel justified in spending money on it, therefore in my opinion napster and the like will only aid in producing mechanical royalties by letting people sample songs before they eventually purchase them and life as we know it will go on. So yes songwriters WILL be affected by getting paid more from royalties and yes the copyright will survive this new shift in medium, thats how I see it.
Eastern Missouri's most prominent unkown, writes:
As in all things, change is the only constant. I believe that copyright law must evolve just as songwriting has evolved and is continuing to evolve through the use of the net to distribute and even create new works. I also believe that these laws are evolving although it is unlikely they will keep up and may lag behind technology for quite some time
A knower of all things thought to be secret from Denver, CO, writes:
I think the impact will be relatively low to the songwriters of the world. The courts seem committed to protecting our interests. I read an article where the attorney for MP3.COM asked for leniency from the judge who was to set damages by stating that any penalty over $500 per CD would put the company into bankruptcy. The judge awarded $25,000.00 per CD! (ooh! thatís gonna leave a mark) And that was just for one publisherís catalog. I understand they had a total of 80,000 albums available for download. What they were doing violates copyright laws so badly it should have been obvious to them they were standing in line to be spanked. They deserve what they get. I do think this technology has its place though. Among other things, for artists and composers who are trying to get their stuff out it is a great tool for advertising your skills. But notice the motivator. You would be shopping your art to get a publishing contract or a record deal that would pay YOU the money to do what you love. And notice the important difference. YOU own the copyright. The next generation of companies like these will have to do two things. Set up licensing agreements with the publishers who own the copyrights and figure out a way to prevent second generation copies. Until then, web distribution really wonít be a viable channel. Which is probably why the people who actually own the copyright arenít out on the web selling the tunes. They do however stand to make a fortune by not having to pay the record labels for reproduction and distribution costs. And where there is money to be made, people will find a way.