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"One has to wonder if perhaps Sony wasn't more afraid of it working than not working."
—Attorney Whitney Broussard

CONSPIRACY OF NONE

Reading The Digital Tea Leaves In The Wake Of The Offspring's Modified Download Promotion
The post-mortem on The Offspring-Columbia downloading debacle has Net pundits in overdrive. Is this an example of corporate blinders or sensible control of product? It seems the core conflict—as is often the case with online music—is a definitional one. While the band and millions of listeners are prepared to embrace file-sharing as a new means of distribution (business model be damned), the labels are at best shakily accepting it as a limited promotional outlet. Then again, "promotional outlet" is better than, say, "spawn of Beelzebub."

Since Napster users will undoubtedly be whipping the tracks from "Conspiracy Of One" around the Net like a beach ball at Cal Jam no matter what (see: Radiohead), would it have done any harm for the band's site to at least enjoy a traffic spike by offering the whole thing, too?

"One has to wonder," muses attorney Whitney Broussard, "if perhaps Sony wasn't more afraid of it working than not working."

Then again, one suspects that for the corporate mothership, a stunt like this "working" could result in a lotta folks not working, tout suite. Mega-barrister Don Passman, whose hugely influential book, All You Need To Know About The Music Business, has been reissued with a comprehensive discussion of the Net's impact, sees The Offspring's surrender as a foregone conclusion.

"The labels clearly have the right to stop artists from putting their music on the Web unless it's a very unusual contract, which I doubt it is," Passman asserts. "It's part of the price of signing with a label—you're turning over the rights to your recordings for a time. Because the labels have a great deal invested in them, they have a lot at stake in determining when and how they're exploited."

Gnutella's Gene Kan, meanwhile, though calling the outcome of the tiff "unfortunate," looks on the bright side. "When the music industry is further along the road to adopting the Internet as a music distribution mechanism," he ventures, "I'm sure they will promote Internet-based music offerings. Until that happens, there are plenty of ways for The Offspring's music to make its way around the Internet without Columbia's assistance."

As always, we'll be at the forefront of this and other digital controversies, as soon as we finish downloading some more porn.

HITS LIST: AMPERSANDS
Dynamic duos (12/3a)
TAYLOR'S TREMENDOUS YEAR
She'd make one helluva CEO. (12/3a)
THEY CALL THE WINDFALL MARIAH (HOLIDAY EDITION)
Ch-chingle bells (12/3a)
SONG REVENUE:
BOWS OF HOLLY
Adele is money. (12/3a)
UTA MUSIC EXPANDS IN NASHVILLE
Reshuffling the deck (12/3a)
CHESTNUTS
Roasting.
STOCKINGS
Stuffing.
PIPERS
Piping.
SANTA
Coming.
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