and with it my ability to get music for free. the US supreme court ruled today on the MGM v Grokster case, and in a 7-2 ruling said that grokster is liable for the copyright infringing of its users. in other words, the record companies seemed to have scored a big victory in stamping out the commercial creation of file sharing programs. the cost of possible liability will probably discourage most software companies from trying to make money off of these programs.
of course, as pointed out here, peer-to-peer is not going anywhere. since companies can't make any money off of this, the job of software creation will go back underground, where it originally started. and really if you think about it, maybe the whole experience will improve because of it. ever since the original incarnation of napster went down, we've been plagued by a variety of different programs that sucked. most notably, kazaa, which installed all sorts of nasty programs and in many cases, actually caused your computer to crash. nothing has even come remotely close to the orignal napster experience. anyways, now that the people who will write these programs have no other motivation to write these programs other than to make the work, or make them work better. my analogy would be windows or internet explorer, both servicable programs that get the job done, but supposedly not nearly as effectively or efficiently as linux or firefox, both open source software.
i'm sure other much more knowledgable sources will have better commentary than i do on the actual case, so read them for a super breakdown of the decision, which justices ruled what way and who wrote the opinions, which you can download in pdf format here. my own reading of the decision is that the supreme court really didn't care that grokster created a program that had the potential to violate copyright, rather they cared that grokster actively promoted and encouraged copyright infringement in promoting their product. although i tend to think that this was a bad decision overall by the supreme court, i really can't disagree with the assertion that grokster was not in anyway innocent of any wrongdoing. the appeal of grokster, like any of the file sharing stuff, is free music. the defense that there's all this other perfectly legal stuff that peer-to-peer can do really doesn't change the fact that the majority of file sharing users do it to get music or video for free that they would have otherwise had to have paid for. that's what i used it for.
again, i'll invoke my theory that the internet does not have as big as the liberating or transforming effect on society that many people had hoped. rather, it just opens up all sorts of cans of worms. let me break the history of this as i understand it:
naive hippie hope for peer to peer #1: peer to peer will expose us to all sorts of great music that we never would have been exposed to before; reality - any crappy garage band can now get us to listen to their even crappier music.
naive hippie hope for peer to peer #2: people are able to share large files of any kind, including sfotware, original music, and original that will make life for the consumer easily; reality: people mostly use peer to peer to steal music.
naive hippie hope for internet: people can communicate more effectively and have access to knowledge that they would have had before; reality: people mostly use the internet to look at porn.
naive hippie hope for internet: pop culture critics have a space to point out the contradictions of the sports and entertainment industry, especially as they pertain to tom cruise; reality - uh...i guess the internet nailed this one.