Saturday, February 23, 2002

Back At Ya

Reports of Napster's death may be premature. Let's go right to the text of an excellent report in today's New York Times:

"America's major record companies, which successfully sued to shut down the online music-swapping service Napster, suffered a setback today as the judge in the case allowed Napster to seek evidence that the record companies colluded to monopolize the digital music market."

"In her ruling, Judge Marilyn Patel of Federal District Court in Northern California wrote that while the evidence before the court had thus far been limited, she found reason for concern given that the five major record labels have created two joint ventures to distribute music over the Internet themselves."

"'These ventures look bad, smell bad and sound bad,' Judge Patel wrote. She added, 'If Napster is correct, these plaintiffs are attempting the near monopolization of the digital distribution market.'"

"The decision was a potential turnabout in a case that has helped define how copyrighted material is distributed over the Internet, who will profit from such distribution, and whether and how much consumers will pay."

"Judge Patel wrote that if Napster shows the record labels were involved in illegal collusion, it could invalidate their lawsuit. But, underscoring the complexity of the legal doctrines involved in the case, she added that even if that were to occur, the record companies could modify any anticompetitive activity and become eligible again to sue Napster."

Would a single sentient human being be surprised if it came to light that the five major recording companies colluded to monopolize the digital music market? I don't think so.