By Richard Menta - 7/13/01
``Our beef hasn't been with the concept of sharing music,'' said Lars Ulrich, front man for the band Metallica. ``The problem we had with Napster was that they never asked us or other artists if we wanted to participate in their business.''
With those words, his band has settled its suit with Napster.
The financial terms of the deal, which also included Dr. Dre, were not disclosed. What is known is that Metallica and Dr. Dre have agreed to allow their music to be traded on the Napster once it launches as a pay service.
``I work hard making music. That's how I earn a living,'' Dr. Dre said. ``Now that Napster's agreed to respect that, I don't have any beef with them.''
Settling with these two artists was a positive move for Napster, but one that has lessened in significance over the last several months. That's because the courts have effectively closed Napster - possibly for good - with a recent ruling by Judge Patel that declared Napster's present filtering success is inadequate and must remain shut down until it reaches 100% effectiveness (see 99.4% ain't good enough: Judge to Napster).
Napster has been offline since the beginning of July, sending millions of users to alternative file trading services, services that also offer the music of Metallica and Dre. Most Napster users had already given up on the service before the shutdown, spawning a hydra of Napster clones, many based overseas to avoid American legal action.
Even if Napster lives, there is significant doubt that users will flock back to the service. The plan is for Napster to be rolled into MusicNet, one of the record industry's two upcoming download services. The proposed conditions by which downloading will be allowed are too restrictive and non-consumer friendly to draw many paid users. Worse yet, the subscription rates they are suggesting are severely overpriced with a CD's worth of music selling for the equivalent of $20 a year (you don't buy songs on these services, you rent them in 30-day increments. Stop payment and the files expire).
In his speech yesterday at the MP3 Summit, MP3.com's CEO Michael Robertson predicted that these pay services offered by the music labels will fail. "There is no value there," said Robertson. "That is going to be a disaster."
It is here that we will point out that with its acquisition by Vivendi/Universal MP3.com will become a member of the Universal/Sony owned PressPlay, the other industry download service. The fact that a member of what will soon become an "officially sanctioned" product of the record industry is predicting the demise of these services - even before they launch - tells you everything.
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