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Our Opinion: Taking a Napster

February 15, 2001

The recent Napster decision by a federal court may affect Imperial County residents more than many people around the nation.

The federal panel ruled Napster would be held liable whenever its software is used to swap music online. That likely will mean the end of Napster.

Because we are in a relatively isolated area and have music stores with relatively small stocks — although the stores do a good job of special ordering for customers — music aficionados of all sorts don't have the immediate access to a large selection of music that they would have in more metropolitan areas.

And there are plenty of music fanatics here. Many in recent years came to rely on Napster, from which computer users could record musical tracks from thousands and thousands of musicians and groups and do so at no cost. They could hear the new and old offerings of their favorite artists, they could hear the music of thousands of other people and groups. It was a huge feast for music fanatics.

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While all that is wonderful for music lovers, we think the federal court was correct in its ruling. The Imperial Valley Press has had its "intellectual product" lifted without payment by other local Internet operations, so we know how it feels to work hard on producing a quality product and have someone else profit off your labors.

Musicians — well most anyway — put tremendous creative energy and long hours into producing recordings. They deserve to be paid and they deserve to be paid well if what they produce brings enjoyment to many. And frankly, $13 to $17 is not a lot for consumers to pay to get the countless hours of enjoyment one can get from a good musical recording.

Yes, for decades people have home-recorded materials and passed those recordings on to friends. That is different, though, in that someone bought the CD, album or tape somewhere along the line, and at least some royalties went to the artist. With Napster millions could record music with nary a penny going to the artist.

So while we respect that music fans loved and profited from Napster, particularly locally, and we agree that recording companies need to find some way to deliver music over the Internet and soon, the Napster setup was not fair to those who produced the music that makes our lives so much better.

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