To Share or Not to Share

To Share or Not to Share

File sharing has changed the way students get music and raised a question: whose music is it, anyways?

By Gerry Boyle '78

These arguments aren't lost on Colby students, though they counter that file-sharing programs like Napster and KaZaa expose listeners to new types of music. Andrew Will, for example, said file sharing opened his ears to "drum and bass," a form of techno music coming out of England. Footnote: not all genres are equally represented in file-sharing networks. "The pop stuff is easy to get because everyone has it," Will said. "The classical stuff is easy because everyone knows it. The jazz not so much because it's most known by an older crowd and they're not setting up a P2P file sharer."

Maybe not yet. But as Will's generation gets older, it's likely they'll consider a file-sharing program as indispensable as cable TV. A small but growing number of colleges and universities,Pennsylvania State University led the way,now offer students free subscriptions to the new Napster 2.0, the pay-to-play version of the music service that emerged after the court case. That may be one way for an institution to prevent music piracy: swallow hard and pay for it.

But stamping out file sharing? Consider students like Greg Dupuy, who is technologically savvy enough to build his own digital recording studio in his single in Dana Hall. Dupuy shares music but limits access to others in the network. "I usually put just the [CD] track number and title," he said. "Because then if you search for the artist, you're not going to find my computer. I just don't want people taking up all my bandwidth."

Or Will, who patiently explained how people set up different types of servers. "I have an FTP server on my computer," he said, "which means that instead of the 'http,' to get to mine you do 'ftp' and then you put my IP address, which Colby gives us."

Still with him? Will reels off a string of digits like most people would recite their telephone number. He has given his friends individual accounts on his server, then allowed them access to certain files, mostly photos. He rarely shares music that way, he said. "Only by request."

While Will and other students acknowledge that pirating music in some ways is unethical, they say there is something inherently wrong with limiting access to the world of music. The industry, rather than trying to change that way of thinking, may try to take advantage of it. Legitimate music downloading services like Apple's iTunes Music Store are gaining users, and industry giant EMI was set earlier this year to offer its catalogue to P2P users through a new subscription music service, Wippit. When it comes to music technology, the times, they are a-changin' and it doesn't appear they'll ever change back.

"There's all this brouhaha about the artists not making the money they deserve, and the ethics of it all," said Marley Orr. "Honestly, for me music is such a big part of my life. . . . This is a cultural thing for me. If I'm limited, that's a frustrating thing for me. I don't want to be limited. . . . This is a part of our lives."

At least that much is music to the industry's ears.
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