Napster and DeCSS: Is it about free speech or free stuff?

By Nicholas Petreley, |  Operating Systems

Linux forums

Look, this music was intended to be distributed only via commercial media like CDs, with the expectation that you would buy the CD if you wanted to listen to it any time. If you want to share that music with your friends, you lend out your CDs. If you can't part with your collection, then you buy copies for your friends. That's the way the system is structured. Deal with it. If you want the system to change, then change it the way Linux has changed the complexion of software. Change it by recording new music with musicians who buy into your new way of distributing music.

Let me put this another way. If this is really about principles and not greed, then I would like to issue a challenge to you Napster advocates who insist that this is a matter of free speech. I suggest you create a new peer-to-peer networking system for software. I'll call this hypothetical system Crookster. I challenge you to make all your favorite commercial software applications freely available to anyone who downloads the Crookster client. But don't do this anonymously like the warez doodz and crackers do. Do it for the cause, because you believe that information truly wants to be free.

And here's a tip for those who genuinely want to draw media attention to your righteous cause. I suggest you start by sharing your copy of Windows 2000 with the world. I guarantee you'll get coverage on all the major networks.

Which brings me to my point. Have you noticed that few (if any) Napster advocates are arguing that it should be legal to purchase a copy of Windows 2000 and share it with a community of Windows fans on the Internet via a peer-to-peer networking system? Why not? Is it because there are no fans or potential fans of Windows 2000? Or is it because people know that if they tried it, Microsoft's lawyers would have them thrown in the hoosegow before they could finish next morning's Wheaties?

People are already addressing the issue of free software the right way. Instead of subverting an existing system of commercial software, they are creating new, open source software and publishing it. Others are trying to find ways of making money by selling and supporting this free software.

Likewise, if people want music to be free, they should create free music and find new ways to distribute it. And if there's a way to make money on this, someone will find it. We all have the right and opportunity to create new ways of doing things. We do not have a right to subvert existing systems just because we have the technology to do so and want free stuff.

Caveat break

This shouldn't be necessary, but let me make a few things clear to prevent an onslaught of angry letters from people who assume I've implied things I did not mean to imply.

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