Douwe Osinga's Blog: A legal way to do Napster

Monday, July 28, 2003

In his latest column, Bob Cringely explains his idea how to create 'Son of Napster', a complicated scheme with shared ownership of CDs where everybody can make a copy of his own CDs of save keeping. Bob says it is legal, but it rather depends a lot on fair use, which I think would be hard to argue if you share ownership with a million other people of a CD.

A couple of months ago, I came up with my own scheme. It seems legal to me, but IANAL.

The central company, let's call it Napster II, is a storage and trading facility of CDs. If I have a CD, I can send it to the company and they will store it somewhere in a safe place and allow me online access to it. This way, I can listen to the CD anytime I want. I now, this is rather close to a similar scheme of MP3.Com, which didn't make it, but the difference here is that Napster II actually has the physical copy of the CD.

Every member of the scheme has let's say 5 CDs stored and can listen over the Internet to any song he owns. If a member wants to listen to a CD he doesn't own, he'll first has to buy it. This he can do by actually spending money, i.e. let Napster II buy it from a record store, or he can trade in one of his 5 CDs with somebody else. If I want to listen to the Beatles and I have a Stones CD, I only have to find somebody on Naspter II who has a Stones CD and wants to listen to the Beatles CD. We swap ownership (but the CDs remain where they are - safe with Napster II) and we both listen to the music we want. Napster II could charge a little something for the service.