Here's some random thoughts about NAPSTER and other P2P music sharing resources. By the way... the red ARGUMENTS came from questions and comments posed on a ZDNET discussion board. The text below each argument is my own sage, well-thought-out, intelligent, and, of course, absolutly correct opinion. Just one preview... I have used Napster, my own music is shared on Napster and I think it's a boon to independent musicians. But, I see all sides and some of the arguments Pro-Napster are simply mis-guided and tend to obscure the real issues.

ARGUMENT 1: We should use Napster because record labels have been price gouging... we deserve free music!!!

I'm very PRO-Napster... but the argument that it's justified because "the labels are gouging us for CD's" drives me nuts... it has nothing to do with what's at issue, and it's simply NOT TRUE!!!

CD prices are subject to the same market pressures as any other item. Prices are NOT fixed by any organization... they've simply landed where they must be for a label to make money.

To create and sell a CD requires not just the CD blank, some music and a little time. Because of the middle men... distributors, rack jobbers, retailers... The label takes home only about $4-$5 on each sale. Here's what it has to pay for:

1. Production -- recording, artwork, etc., costs run a little as $5000 up to $500,000. CD duplication is a MINOR expense... about $1 per unit in quantities of 10,000... but even minor releases from major label titles start at 50,000 units. All this requires the sale of about 10,000 units (on the average) to amortize.

2. Promotion... I have experience only with smaller magazines, but I would expect that a full page ad in a magazine such as Rolling Stone costs $10,000 if you commit to running it in three successive issues, a $30,000. (In terms of CD's, that's the full wholesale price of 6000 units.)

Multiply this by the number of magazines in which one must place ads for major coverage -- you're talking sale of 100,000 units to cover the expense.

3. Typically, to get a title in the media and radio, a label hires "independent promoters" for a couple of hundred thousand buck a title. This is why small labels don't get airplay... it takes the sale of about 50,000 units to pay for effective independent promotion.

4. The label must give away about 1 copy for each 10 sold... to radio, reviewers, distributors preview copies, etc. Add in a 10% overhead...

5. Distributors, retailers, etc., hold back between %10 and 25% percent of invoiced charges for a "reserve" to they're not exposed for returns (generally, all down the sales chain unsold copies may be returned to the label.) Add in another 10% overhead.

So... a minimal release must sell (according to my quick calculation) about 200,000 units just to break even. Most titles LOSE money!!! The labels make their profit though those few records that sell 2,000,000 copies or whatever.

Argument 2: How stupid can Napster users be? Isn't it obvious that downloading music is stealing?

We're not ALL THAT stupid? This is a new area and is not specifically covered by copyright law. Don't you think that Radio and Television, Cinema, Muzak, etc., have gone through this same debate? This requires public discussion and in this case, as opposed to radio or whatever, is a GLOBAL matter, not just a national issue.

Argument 3: Intellectual property is property, the same as my car, my stereo and my television.

Don't you feel you have the right to let someone borrow your car? Seriously... yes... the copyright owners (circle (c) song authors, and circle (P) performance copyright holders) must be compensated... I think that can be worked out. The battle is over CONTROL of distribution... the whole stink about stealing intellectual property is a smoke screen. This battle has been brewing for YEARS for those who have been paying attention.

Argument 4: Becoming a successful musician is such a long shot in the first place that most talented people don't even try it. This is just another hurdle.

You could have fooled me... I live in Austin Texas... there are about 3500 working bands in this city... each with a CD or two... all trying VERY hard to "make it." What's tough it not plying the icy waters of creativity... it's getting your material HEARD. The chances of a non-major label getting commercial radio airplay are ZERO!!! If you think only major label product is WORTHY of airplay, then you just don't know what's out there.

Argument 5: If you don't like the law, work to change it, IN THE LEGISLATURE.

It's just not that easy in this case... our legislative branches have jurisdiction only over our country... this is a global matter and there is no established body with the jurisdiction to mediate. What's to prevent Napster from relocating to India? Or to trade music with only residents of China?

Argument 6: The inventor of Napster is a criminal and should be jailed.

Given that even the courts that have heard this case felt the issues were murky and ill-defined, I think this is a rather incendiary statement! You're supporting the death of Peer-to-peer inter-networking in general... and opening the door to removing control of the internet from those who use it. Who do we trust to make such sweeping decisions as to what files are and aren't shareable? Time Warner/AOL????

Argument 7: We BOUGHT this music... we have the right to copy it and do what we like with it, right?

Unfortunately, this argument is one that the labels are using to combat Napster and it obfuscates the real issue.

We have long recognized the right of the artist to be compensated for use of his/her work. Copyright is just what is says: the right to determine who can make copies of a work.

You pay for music each time you hear it from a public medium -- on radio, in a store, on TV, in a movie. The music provider must pay a license fee to BMI, ASCAP for performance rights. Or, for mechanical rights, the license fee goes to the publisher (through Harry Fox Office or other administrating body.)

The issue is NOT whether we have the right to give away music and to copy... we should pay the copyright holder for the music we listen to. 

The big issue WHO CONTROLS THE DISTRIBUTION. Do we have the right to share files on the internet (music or otherwise) free from corporate interference (Time-Warner/AOL/EMI or whatever.)

Argument 8: You can always listen to the radio.

Yes... you can, and there (with the possible exception of public radio) you can hear the music that is force fed to commercial radio by the five major label groups. The battle cry may be "Protection of Artist's rights"... but believe me, the war is over control of distribution and media access!!!

Of course copyright holders must be compensated for distribution of their works. I have to believe there's a way to work this out, even on a P2P network. It's been worked out for radio, TV and other media... it can be worked out for the internet as well. Are you aware that a portion of the price of every blank tape sold is redirected through RIAA to record labels?

Song authors are paid $.05 for each copy of their work that is purchased (mechanical royalty.) Authors are paid about $.025 for each public performance of their work. The average band is credited about $1 for each CD sold... and this is generally used to pay back the label for the cost of production, promotion, packaging, etc.

What the majors are trying to find is a means of CONTROLLING what is available and what may accessed on the internet.
For starters, some means of compensating authors for their work must be found. This has been done with Radio and other media (did you know that Juke Boxes have been a source of controversy for YEARS!) Radio stations must make periodic reports to BMI and ASCAP who then use a formula to redistribute license fees to copyright holders. Is this so tough?

And some protection must be provided for the concept of peer to peer networking and public access of files on the internet in general.