The Napster settlement has been bothering me a lot, especially since it sets absolutely no precedent. A single music company agreed to drop a suit. Great. What if on the new SuperNapsterPayPerDownload service some kiddie starts trading music from different labels than BMG, and those other labels (which might be small and independent) for some reason do not want their music distributed in this way? Is it OK just becuase Big Business is behind the pay service? BMG will get money from the new Napster service, but small independent labels will most likely not.
This is depressing because many had hoped the Napster case would clarify this confusing aspect of copyright law. As far as current copyright law stands, I see no reason why an independent label could not sue Napster/BMG and have just as large a case as the RIAA did.
What was settled was not settled between all parties that had claim to the money that "Napster had taken away from them". All that happened was that one of the larger parties got what they wanted. This does not clarify anything and does not solve any problems that other companies claim they had. If smaller record companies sue, do they have a chance?
I am also unhappy about the distinction that seems to be arising between the legalities of a non-pay service versus those of a costly service. If Napster was aiding people in piracy when it was public, why will it be any different when it becomes an exclusive club of piracy? Audio that BMG does not hold the copyright to still will be traded. Many companies, and even people blamed Napster for facilitating this piracy, and therefore being liable for it. Once Napster comes up from the underground, how will it be any different? If I record farting noises, sell CD's of them, and they get put on Napster, can I sue Napster? Well, this was basically what companies were doing to Napster before the BMG deal.
The involvement of Big Business should not change the percieved or real legality of a service