Florian Cramer on Fri, 12 May 2000 06:48:12 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Napster Hurts Free Software

Am Tue, 09.May.2000 um 18:34:23 -0700 schrieb Carl Guderian:

> Perens forgets that the internet won't just route around measures like
> those--it will also run over them like Caligula's giant lawnmower (I
> rented the movie recently; it's as bad as I remember it). 

I doubt that this is coming as easy or naturally as you suggest and many
others have in the past ten years. The well-known saying that the Internet
would interpret censorship as a bug and root around it implies a
(technicological, political and epistemological) autonomy of the Internet
that doesn't exist. Lawrence Lessig has made many good points concerning
this which are unneccessary to repeat here. The worldwide police action
against the authors of the ILOVEYOU worm and Metallica's reverse
identification and legal persection of Napster users should give some good
impressions of what degree of control is already feasible in the Internet.

> If recording companies really try to impose trusted client on us, geeks
> will crack it faster than you can say "40-bit export limit." They will

There is no more 40-bit export limit. At least in theory, decent proprietary
cryptography is possible now and can't be broken as easily if it's
implemented in a technically non-stupid way. But even it remains true that
hacker will

> crack it and all variations thereof, before and after recording companies
> spend millions of unrecoverable dollars and push through unenforceable
> laws. 

..., this would render a large quantity of Free Software illegal (i.e.
Linux, *BSD and other operating systems complying to the Debian Free
Software Guidelines and the Open Source Definition; both document by they
way have been written by the very Bruce Perens Ted Byfield calls a 'slave').
It has happened with DCSS, it could happen with every proprietary protocol
that has been reverse engineered in Free Software
- be it Windows file sharing, Postscript, ICQ or Napster.

Perhaps you wouldn't care. 

> Napster and open source software arise from the same geek impulses of
> hubris, laziness, and impatience.  Someone somewhere wanted to do

I disagree. Napster is

(a) proprietary software
(b) a propietary, company-owned Internet protocol using
(c) a centralized registry controlled by that very company.

It is quite the opposite of such decentralized, open net protocols as FTP,
WWW, E-Mail etc.. It is, unlike the true 'Open Source' effore FreeNet, also
quite risky to use because not only Napster Inc. can track down your IP
address. (Same applies to Gnutella. Just check out the "Gnutella hall of
shame", a real-time exposure of people searching for child porn.)

> be done "our" way (Windows). Napster is no threat to open source software.
> On the contrary; it has spread the open source concept to the recording
> industry. 

What is so "open source" about mp3? MIDI files are "open source" because
they actually contain the score of a piece of music. A genuine piece of
'open source' music would have to contain the MIDI source (if existing), all
sound samples used and the mixer control file; if it's not electronic music,
it should at least contain all original recording tracks seperate from the
mixer control file. And, most important: if it would be Open Source as
defined by the Open Source Definition <http://www.osi.org>, it would include
an explicit statement allowing the modified or unmodified redistribution of
the data.

mp3 files on Napster are not "Open Source" because they are binaries and
because it's illegal to freely distribute and modify them. They are as
little "Open Source" or "Free" as Warez are.

> By making an issue of Napster, the RIAA have reaped a whirlwind because
> they represent something every geek hates: the suit who rules over a
> technology (recording) or process (distribution) he or she knows nothing
> about, nor cares to. The present battle provides the geeks' big chance
> (nay, duty!) to whack the Pointy Haired Boss with the clue stick. 

Musicians are free to leave record companies and release their music on the
net under free licenses. In fact, many already do it. You are free to decide
to only listen to music which has been freely released. You can encourage
others to do so.

Free Software has been a successful project because it opted exactly for the
above choice. If people had happily chosen Warez instead, there would be no
GNU/Linux. (The recording industry is stupid. mp3 and Napster are the most
efficient reinforcement tools of mainstream musical taste and hence the best
stardom vehicles. Try to get Stockhausen's "Kontakte" via Napster.)


Florian Cramer, PGP public key ID 6440BA05
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