People love scapegoats. A target for blame makes for an easy explanation of unfortunate incidents. This is common in the music industry. A frequent claim in the many assessments of today’s music industry is that it should have made a deal with the original Napster when it had the chance. Rather than litigate, the argument goes, labels should have embraced P2P and monetized all those billions of shared files. As illegal file-sharing traffic continues to dwarf traffic from legitimate sales – 19-to-1 is a commonly accepted illegal/legal ratio – the concept of a monetized Napster comes from the idea that the record industry’s digital era suffering could have been avoided. No such luck. For the most part, the industry was destined for a long, painful evolution. There was not going to be an easy way out.
Granted, the record industry has committed its fair share of blunders in the last ten years, and its slow-footedness has put it at least a few years behind a proper transformative pace. DRM was a non-starter, and CD copy protection looked good only on paper. But missing in the “Should have made a deal with Napster” arguments is any semblance of the shape and structure of such a partnership. Just how what would that partnership look like? The answer is there is no answer. Not doing a deal with Napster was not a mistake because it never could have happened.
Slate’s Farhood Manjoo wrote an article on Hollywood’s inability to create the perfect movie service that has tens of thousands…
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