On December 15, 1877 Thomas Edison patented the phonograph. This simple innovation would give rise to the Copyright Industries and the Recording Labels many years later. On December 10, 2014, the Pirate Bay went offline due to a police raid based on evidence gathered by the Copyright Industries. Meanwhile, P2P sharing has remained at the same levels before the The Pirate Bay shutdown.
Goes to show that the copyright industry really hasn’t learned nothing from the past fifteen years.
Napster came and challenged everything the recording labels and the copyright industry stood for. These industries had two options, embrace Napster or crush Napster. Napster was the sharing community cultural centre for people. If the industries embraced it, then they would have been at that centre. Instead they decided to crush it and Napster’s centralised server proved to be its Achilles heel.
What the Copyright industry failed to conceive was the post Napster generation who innovated even harder, and it is no coincidence that Bit Torrent and The Pirate Bay rose a few years after Napster and the cornerstone of their innovation was decentralisation.
When The Pirate Bay came to prominence people stopped developing because the site was good enough. Everyone became complacent. But now it is down and the same catch cry is heard across the world from developers.
Already the talk around the web is that these new P2P initiatives will protect privacy, free speech, encrypted trackers and block chain technology (Blocks in a block chain are ‘sealed’ with a cryptographic hash). The legacy of Napster will live on and so will the legacy of The Pirate Bay.
Because the funny thing here is that the recording industry had a chance to control digital music. In late 1993 two audiophile computer science students were fascinated by the code that shrunk huge sound files and they started testing compressed songs to see if they could spot the difference. In time, they could no longer tell the difference and that is when it was realised that CD’s could go online. This gave rise to the first mp3 website, the Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA). The vision was that by putting songs online anyone could share their music online and potentially build an audience. Bands could upload and advertise their tunes, build their own pages, sell merchandise and, eventually, let people play tracks right from the site. Bands could choose whether to charge or give away their music, in order to build a following for live shows.
With all new technologies it didn’t take long for the record labels to notice. They recognized that the free flow of music would destroy their business. But they passed on the technology and in 1999 the music industry changed forever.
Napster showed the world how easily one could share music. However, Napster did not last long, but it altered forever the way in which people consumed music and what they should pay.