For $15 a month, Napster To Go offers unlimited song downloads -- in a copy-restricted format that can be played only on Windows XP computers and some digital music players -- but these songs expire if you don't keep paying that fee each month.For a moment, let's extend the thread of argument often used to justify criminal action against illicit downloaders -- digital files are the same as tangible goods, each download is a lost sale, unauthorized download is theft, fileswappers are thieves. What if Napster To Go were Napster The Grocery, and milk you bought could only be consumed from proprietary square mugs (known for continually sprouting holes you have to patch on your own), and milk cartons vanish from your refrigerator shelf if you don't re-up your subscription? You'd get milk elsewhere.
Unfortunately, Napster's not alone: other pay-per-download services include similarly logic-deficient restrictions. What consumers of digital entertainment are expected to put up with is amazing.
An anonymous reader says,
I'm with you on the idea behind this analogy, but the use of a perishable good as an example makes for a poor argument. Unlike a song one can buy, the milk would expire on its own whether or not it was sold based on a subscription model.Reader Uriel Klieger says,
Another aspect of the Napster to Go model is that it shows that the RIAAs claims of a lost sale for every download to be demonstrably false. If you can download an unlimited number of songs via napster and play them for as long as you continue to subscribe, then the maximum loss the RIAA suffers from a single downloader cannot exceed $15/month no matter how many songs a person downloads.
I found myself both disgusted and amazed at the incredible marketing spin. I took a closer look at the EULA, and thought I'd like to share some interesting points.
1) "The Tracks and Materials are owned by Napster, its business partners, affiliates and/or licensors, as applicable, and are protected by intellectual property laws."
This is the technical way of saying that you own nothing at all, even though you're paying for it. You might notice that the Napster website is very good about avoiding saying that you are "purchasing" anything. Napster users can "find," "get," "transfer," and "listen to" all the music they like. (Purchasing of music is only explicitly mentioned under the Napster Light service, somewhere at the bottom of a page -- but the same EULA I just quoted applies to that service, also.)
2) "The Client will count the number of times that you play a Download, including while you are offline, for royalty accounting and analysis purposes.... Napster will track the Downloads that you so transfer [to a portable player] and the number of times that you play Downloads on such devices."
Napster users are paying $15 a month for the privilege of being a statistic -- and Music Player makers have to build the hardware to support this feature as well.
Napster's website tells users that they can now "get all the music you want in a whole new way." Indeed. Call me when Grokster wins.
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: email@example.com.