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osOpinion: An itch that needs scratching

Aug 28, 2000, 02:43 (41 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by David Nimmons)

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"The process of producing free software has often been described as the programmer "scratching an itch" or solving a particular problem for him/her self and then sharing the result with others. I know my own fascination with computers stems from using computer technology to solve real world problems, usually involving automation or process control. I would even say that a computer is only as useful as the problems it solves (Or did someone else say that?). In this vein, I would like to discuss an itch that sorely needs scratching, a problem that is at least partially of our own making that we should take upon ourselves to solve. And, you ask, what is this problem of which I speak? The problem is how to make sure that artists are paid for their work, now that file sharing technologies such as napster and Gnutella make their work freely available over the internet. How to make money off of something that is freely available is a problem that free software programmers are very familiar with. I believe that within the solution of this problem for the artistic community, lies the answer to our own problem of how to support free software."

"In the ongoing debate about the rightness/wrongness of being able to share music files (and eventually books and videos) across the Internet, the wrongness of it invariably comes down to the fact that the artist is not getting paid for his work. The rightness of the technology is how it enables easy dissemination of information and knowledge and how it opens new avenues of communication and collaboration. There is also the small fact of how it helps to ensure our rights of free speech. A country that was built on the principles of openness, free speech and free access to knowledge (That is the purpose of our public school systems and our public libraries and used to be the purpose of our patent and copyright laws) should and will embrace these technologies. Having the sum of human knowledge freely and easily available to everyone, and having our rights guaranteed by hardwiring them into the system benefits everyone. We can not allow these new technologies to be repressed just to maintain the monopoly position of the existing distribution system of the music industry. All that is needed to make all rightness is a method of paying the artist for the work that is distributed digitally over the Internet."

"With a payment system in place to allow artists to be paid for their work, this technology will be a terrific boon to musicians. It offers them new ways of marketing and distributing their work directly to the consumers, bypassing the record companies and loosening the chokehold that they now hold on musicians. It is my hope that the Internet will put the record companies out of business. I was outraged a few years back when I heard an interview with John Fogarty of Credence Clearwater Revival where he stated that the songs that he wrote, sang and made famous belonged to the record company, and that he was not allowed to perform the songs in his concerts. In reports I have read about the Napster controversy, this is evidently the normal practice in the music industry, the record companies holding all rights to the music. To me this is an extreme injustice. Perhaps I am maligning the record companies unfairly and I apologize if I am. I do realize the necessary services that the record companies have provided in marketing and distributing music and musicians, but, I believe they provide these services at too high a price for consumers, too little benefit for musicians and too much profit for themselves. We have already seen the value that this technology offers consumers, now we just have to make it valuable to the producers as well. So sorry if it eliminates the middleman."

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