In a ruling last week, U.S. courts ordered MP3.com to pay the Universal Music Group $25,000 for each CD the Internet company copied. If the higher courts deny MP3.com’s appeal, the company will suffer fines in excess of $118 million.
This is just the latest attempt in a long history of “the man” trying to control the existing media and obliterate new forms of media.
For those unfamiliar with the case, Mp3.com was charged with copyright violation because they offered a service on their myMp3.com page that allowed people to copy their own CDs onto the company’s database. But first they’d have to register the disc to verify it had been legitimately purchased.
This allowed people to listen to their CDs without physically having the CD with them. To me, I see no difference between this and copying a CD onto a tape and listening to it in my car where there is no CD player.
They say what goes around comes around. If the record companies think they can continue to charge up to $20 for a CD that costs a few cents to make, then they should realize that people are going to try and find a way to go around the hefty prices.
Hypothetically, if a person was to purchase an average of two CDs a week at $20 a piece for a year, the total would be, including sales tax, around $2,300. That’s more than my car is worth.
The Mp3.com case was watched closely by similar companies such as Napster, who is facing similar charges in a pending case. The issue here isn’t about copyright laws. The issue here is about money.
Record companies and artists want to fully profit from the music they produce. There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of wealth when it doesn’t impede on the free exchange of ideas. In this case, the ideas have taken the form of music.
The case could go either way. The question of who’s to blame lies with who is asking the question. The record companies want their money, so the Internet companies are to blame. To Internet enterprises, as well as those they provided the services to, they have done nothing wrong. To them, they have done no more than the public library does for people every day.
It’s about the free exchange of ideas in a world that’s overwhelmed by the desire to make as much money as possible in as little time as possible.
Perhaps the most ridiculous, if not unnecessary display of what I like to call “anti-Mp3ism,” came from a pre-recorded video short that aired during the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards. The two-minute piece featured Metallica’s Lars Ulrich stealing items from a college student’s dorm room, citing there was no difference between his actions and Napster’s.
Maybe someone should tell him that no one forcibly entered his home and removed his socks or his microwave or his stereo system. Neither Mp3.com nor Napster was in the wrong for making music more readily available to the public.
What’s funny is, these bands – the anti-Mp3 bands, based their reputations on being rebels and nonconformists. Now, they are asking those to whom they taught these principles to do as they are told – to run to local record stores, pay the manufacturer’s suggested retail price and not ask any questions.
The future of music, if the courts continue to dole out similar verdicts, will be one completely controlled by the copyright police. Think twice before humming that new songs you heard on the radio. Don’t even think about pulling any songs off the Internet. The copyright police are one step ahead of you waiting to take away your rights and the three dollars you have left in your wallet.