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CNN Today

Legal or Not, Music Sharing Technology Becoming Better, More Common

Aired March 2, 2001 - 1:18 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: In January alone, music fans downloaded more than 2 1/2 billion -- that's with a B -- files using Napster. Users call it sharing; the music industry calls it stealing.

CNN technology correspondent Rick Lockridge is here.

I notice you just dialed up Napster, and it's up there: Call to get active, by notifying the Congress about all this. So they continue the good fight, but effectively, when this injunction is over with, they will probably have Napster as we know it shut down.

RICK LOCKRIDGE, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: As we know.

WATERS: But they're proceeding with a fee-based system, are they not?

LOCKRIDGE: Well, what will probably happen is the injunction will say you can allow, you can the facilitate the downloading of some songs, the ones for which you have permission. But the vast majority of songs, they won't have permission. So it'll just be a few songs.

And then, if they can somehow work out that they can get a fee- based system later on, maybe you'll be able to get that content that people really want to download now: the pop songs, the hits. But that's still very much up in the air if that will ever happen, as well.

WATERS: Well, Napster, of course, has drawn all the attention to this, but there are, of course, legal ways of downloading music on the Internet.

LOCKRIDGE: Well, sure, sure. In fact, there's a brand-new one here, with Web site that some of us might have heard of before: Amazon.com, the Internet superstore. It's got a free music download site that just went up, and they say they've got 5,000 tunes, including some by artists you have heard of.

WATERS: How is that different from Napster?

LOCKRIDGE: Well, they're working with the industry. They have the explicit permission to use the music from, like, Smashing Pumpkins.

There's some well-known names here: Wu-Tang Clan.

I mean, you can pick any one of these. Let's just click on one. Which one do you want? Just click on one.

WATERS: Oh, boy, I'm a big Smashing Pumpkins fan.

LOCKRIDGE: Are you really? OK, we'll check this one out. And now all we have to do to download this song is hit the download button, and since I'm a registered customer, you can see the download has already started.

This is legal, you can do it; however, it doesn't have all the songs that Napster has. It only has a few, compared to the vast library of songs that you can get through Napster.

Again, I want to mention, the music industry calls that stealing, and we don't want to give the appearance that we're condoning that.

WATERS: now, what you're downloading here you can transfer to a CD also, legally.

LOCKRIDGE: Yes, you can -- sure, sure, but we already have downloaded a song earlier on. I can play it for you right now. This is by U2, another band you've heard of.

WATERS: Right, the big Grammy winner.

LOCKRIDGE: Now, what a lot of people are going to do -- and for right or for wrong -- is they're going to want to continue to download music the way they have been, which is to get the songs they really want from other people's computers.

And there are other technologies that allow this, and they're getting better, so the question really should be isn't Napster going to go away: The question should be is it relevant, because you've got services like BearShare -- their software will allow you to go, say, you have your computer, I have mine. I get the song right from you, you get it right from me -- there's no central computer, like with Napster, there's no way anybody knows what you and I are doing together.

And then there's -- there's another one here. This is an Israeli company, iMesh. And I want to point out, on their site, they say you may share only material which you either own the copyright of. Lou, people are going to ignore that in droves.

WATERS: Yes, so -- now, this fee-based system that Napster's talking about, that they're going forward with this summer, is that quality music, or are they reduced now to the 5,000 tunes or the 10,000 tunes or whatever?

LOCKRIDGE: What people expect to happen, people in the know, is that Napster will be reduced to supplying access only to tunes which they haven't been denied the use of, and the recording industry's going to come in with these reams of printouts and say, OK, all these songs, forget it, you can't allow it anymore. Here's a few that are garage bands, people who want their music on Napster, and some good- natured bands who want their music up there, but...

WATERS: We're looking at the future here, and I suppose there's got to be some accommodation.

LOCKRIDGE: In the long run, certainly, but it's going to be a stormy interim until that happens.

WATERS: Yes, OK, Rick Lockridge, our science and technology correspondent.

And Natalie, it's grooving over here.

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