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photo Bill Mickey
ONLINE Magazine

If we can get beyond

the siege mentality surrounding

copyright, there are some pretty

phenomenal and legitimate uses

for distributed networking and

file sharing.

Swapping Files, Swapping Editors

ONLINE, November 2000
Copyright © 2000 Information Today, Inc.


S teve Arnold, in his keynote speech at ONLINEWORLD 2000 last September remarked that "the record industry should have just bought Gnutella. They should have just shown up one day and said 'Good news! We love what you're doing, here's a billion dollars!' It would have been over. They would have had control." His comment exposes the typical shortsightedness of big business in the face of cutting-edge technology, and the recording industry's notorious ignorance and fear of recording and distributing digital media in particular. But what if, for example, Universal Music Group ducked out of the cloud around its head and bought Gnutella or Napster? How dull would that be? Just another acquisition of a promising utility in a long line of acquisitions of promising utilities and, importantly, no drawn out legal battle, no David and Goliath struggle, no wrestling match between the establishment and young, forward-thinking radicals–no drama. The only interesting hook here would be that a record label actually adopted a distribution technology early.

But beneath the acquisition issue you might be thinking that the recording industry would have forestalled an epic battle for control over copyright, royalties, and the Internet's inherent facilitation of viral distribution. You'd be wrong. Turn over Napster or Gnutella's rock and you'd see dozens of like-minded technologies representing a thriving community of hackers and programmers who'd relish the opportunity to turn an application on its head. And it's not just about .mp3 files. Any file format can be discretely swapped in any number of P2P programs–text, multimedia–essentially subverting the entire structure of copyright. But remember, programs don't trade files, people trade files.

In his excellent cover article starting on page 16, Chris Sherman details the technology behind Napster and its cousins, including its formative years leading up to its current legal woes, and points out that if we can get beyond the siege mentality surrounding copyright, there are some pretty phenomenal and legitimate uses for distributed networking and file sharing–especially in the information industry. And in Other News... You've read the press releases and you've heard the announcements (www.infotoday.com). Information Today, Inc. continues along the trail of innovation and progress. September's ONLINE WORLD was its final production–giving way to two new shows, Websearch University (www.websearchu.com) and EContent 2001: The Content Expo (www.econtent2001.com). The new shows sprang out of ONLINE WORLD to highlight the industry's increased focus on important content issues: search and content distribution, deployment, and management. Also, I'll be leaving my Editor's post here to take over editorship of EContent magazine, and oversee its transition from a bimonthly to a monthly and adjust its editorial coverage to fully realize the potential of the EContent name. Marydee Ojala, EContent's Editor, is happily taking over the position of Editor for this magazine as of the January 2001 issue–she'll also be retaining a post at EContent as Editor-at-Large. I've had a lot of fun in my short tenure with this publication and am proud of the articles the authors and columnists have worked so hard to produce.

Speaking of columnists, it's time to say goodbye to Reva Basch who concludes her REVA'S (W)RAP column with this issue. Always colorful and insightful, REVA'S (W)RAP has entertained and educated for the last two years at its back-page position. See page 96 for Reva's message to you.

Marydee is looking forward to taking ONLINE into 2001 and, as you know, she's the best of the best, so it's onward and upward for ONLINE as the premier resource for info pros. See you on the content side!

Letters to the Editor should be sent via email to editor@infotoday.com.

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