You download a music file through Napster or Gnutella or whatever. Instead of the song you thought you downloaded, you get the new hit, “You Thief.”
Companies are planning to flood MP3 channels with “spoofs” that have the title of real songs, but tell you when you try to play them that you have attempted to break copyright law.
Expect to start seeing a lot more of this in the near future. MP3s are starting to really hurt music sales in areas where people are most likely to do this (i.e., around college campuses).
I’m not going to get into the point/counterpoint of whether MP3s are good or not. The issue is simply “Is this hurting record sales, or isn’t it?”
If 15-25 year olds buy a lot less music because MP3s are a “good enough” substitute (and that shouldn’t be too hard to determine); the music companies are going to fight back. Hard.
Some will try technological feats like the one mentioned. Wouldn’t be surprised if a couple on the fringes actually started incorporating real viruses into fake songs. Others will try to recruit your local law enforcement agencies and ISPs to start busting those a little too enthusiastic about spreading the wealth.
This is not to say tactics like that are going to kill the MP3 movement; it probably won’t. But I think you’re going to see the music industry shift their battle from a couple courtrooms into the trenches, much as with software.
Maybe Not, But Is This Realistic?
You may have heard about the potential deal one big music provider (Bertelsmann) is trying to make with Napster. Essentially, it’s a subscription deal, for $25 a month, you get to play with their music.
The concept (paying $X a month for access) seems to be a reasonably compromise between paying $15 for a CD just to get a song or two you like, and paying absolutely nothing for anything, but I also suspect most MP3 users aren’t going to buy it.
However, I think the cost of free music is going to go up in the near future, with more hassle, and more risk, as those who make the music fight back.