Napster May Be Fine for a Casual Fan but Not for the Serious Collector

Darknet: Napster’s CEO on roadblocks to a celestial jukebox JD Lasica blogs about his recent Engadget interview with Napster CEO Chris Gorog.

One of the things that JD asks Gorog about is the concept of the celestial jukebox.

“How many years away are we from a true celestial jukebox?

Gorog: The major impediment to a true celestial jukebox in the legal world is the complexity of the rights clearances. This remains an important challenge for everyone involved in the business. The biggest problem, frankly, are the music publishers. It’s just the sheer clumsiness of the way the music publishing organizations are set up.

In the United States, about 50 percent of music publishers’ rights are cleared by one agency, the Harry Fox Agency. The other 50 percent are represented by 50,000 individual music publishers. So this is where it becomes a complex task for anyone to get out there and clear this stuff. We’re trying all kinds of things to make the process simpler. …”

The problem with the Napster model is that there is no permanence to the music collection. True music collectors are passionate for life. They were the same individuals that were collecting LPs and built massive CD libraries and now have even larger and grander .mp3 libraries. As a collection grows, let’s say after 100,000 tracks, managing the library becomes as significant as the content itself.

There have been things written in the past regarding the obsessive traits of collectors and articles that fundamentally examine why as human beings we are driven to collect, but the fact remains it is more than just about having access to the music.

I worry that even the .mp3 format may not survive the next 200 years and I hope that my collection will. To pin my organizing efforts, my thousands and thousands of hours of painstaking examination of music on the off chance that Napster and their format may be around in 10 years just doesn’t work.

Read up on some of Microsoft Research’s Gordon Bell and his writing about file formats with regards to his mylifebits project. Bell is a strong critic of things like Quicken and other proprietary software formats because if you go back 10 years ago, let alone 20 years ago, many of these formats simply don’t exist anymore. I am not going to invest the significant time and energy in Napster when I have no guarantee that I will be able to control this part of my life in the future.

I am an extreme case and yes there are those with no true collection, no true organization — perhaps just a hodge podge of a thousand or so .mp3s on their PC completely uncategorized — but that is not me.

Napster needs to understand that in order to make the value proposition work for me, they need to offer me some way to ensure the music and the significant time and effort of organizing, rating, ranking and collecting the music last for decades. Under their present model with DRM infected tracks this just will not work and because of that my opportunities lay elsewhere.

Obviously the legal considerations are significant and there may never be a solution. This is why we must strive for alternatives. Ourmedia, the Internet Archive, overhauling the copyright laws to allow financially insignificant works of art to fall into the public domain — these are the types of efforts that I am most interested in exploring as these are the types of efforts that can best enhance my personal collection.

All of this mumbo jumbo by the bastard of a true visionary company that once was Napster is hype and a mass market gimmick.

Give me control — and yes I’ll pay for it handsomely and happily.

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