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 Music Imitates Wrestling: Napster vs. Media Enforcer

Eric de Fontenay

The New Music Industry has displayed all the drama and bravado of boxing, or even better, wrestling. Consider the birth of the first contender, In its early days, reminded me of Mohammed Ali: quick and nimble, it appeared to put the fear of death for the longtime champion, let's call them the Establishment. spawned a veritable revolution by establishing the mp3 format as a defacto standard for consumers. Its advocacy of open formats and favored position among the masses made it a powerful (perceived) adversary to the Establishment.

But following its wildly successful IPO, the landscape appeared to change: maybe it was a shift in crowd support, certainly the defeat to the Establishment in the less than memorable " War." But then came Napster, aka "Chaos" (a reference in a recent email). It just seemed to come from nowhere, gathering a small (9,000,000) army of hardcore "file swappers" and creating the newest fad since mp3. First came Metallica who appeared to do itself more damage with a backlash from its fans. But the real blow came just last week with a virtual 'Pile Driver': the spread of Madonna's yet to be released single. And despite the RIAA recent 'summary' court victory, "Chaos" seems to gather more steam with an injection of VC capital and the nightly news, which told every kid in America who wasn't aware, where they could get some free music. You can't even buy that type of PR.

Yet, just as Napster's moniker, the Internet has always had a chaotic dynamic. And so appears yet another contender, but he's trying to pick a fight with "Chaos." Media Enforcer (that's actually its name) arms content owners with a weapon to fight online piracy by allowing them to track music "file swappers." So, at no cost except for the court order for the ISP to release the personal information of the collected IP numbers, a content owner could build a claim for legal action and ban a large swath of Napster's army of supporters. It could literally nimble away at the enforcer.

We spoke with Travis, who wished to otherwise remain in anonymity except for the fact that he is the developer of the Media Enforcer application, to find out more about this application, legislation v. technology and copyright in the digital age.


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