July 27, 2000

Thursday<BR>Speaking of GNU/Linux

Author: JT Smith

By: Emmett Plant
Dear Eminem

Dear Eminem

One thing we're learning in the new internet economy is that ideology and
technology go hand-in-hand. I know the Napster issue isn't specifically a
Linux thing, but Napster and Linux meet in the ideological ideals of
intellectual freedom, something that Linux users enjoy and get excited
about. It's hard to find a daily Linux user that isn't a Napster user as
well. In this column, I'm going to talk a little about where Napster and
Linux collide.

Eminem is a rapper who is strongly anti-Napster. His manager and partner,
Dr. Dre, came out against Napster just a little while after Lars Ulrich
from Metallica did. Popular musicians seem divided on the issue, and while
Metallica and Eminem fight against Napster, Courtney Love and Chuck D are
pro-Napster and anti-establishment. They'll all fight it out with senate
meetings and musical peer pressure while people at home gladly copy their
music across the net. It's hard to find Napster users who don't use it to
download licensed music illegally.

Which comes down to me. I use Napster. I admit it. I'm just a big
criminal. I'm wearing gold watches and looking out for the cops. Okay, not
really. But I do use Napster. I like to think I use Napster
responsibly. This means that I'll download music on Napster, listen to it,
and if I like it, I'll walk out to the CD store and buy the CD it came
from. Easy enough? You would think so. But while Eminem rails against
Napster users, I bought his CD, 'The Marshall Mathers LP.' It's a good
CD. Funny and entertaining, and even scary from a sociological
standpoint. It's funny that Eminem is so angry in his lyrics, but when
open rebellion is practiced by the masses, it shouldn't apply to him.

So, Eminem, what's up? I bought your album. You continue to fight against
Napster. I used Napster to download 'The Real Slim Shady,' and then after
I listened to it a few times, I decided to go out and buy the CD, because
I wanted to hear more. Are you going to thank me for buying your record
and padding your expense account or are you going to haul me off to jail
for illegally obtaining the single? It's a tough decision, isn't it? Thank
a fan or sue a fan. Choose.

Linux users believe in freedom. But where is the line drawn? Is it wrong
to download copyrighted music? Just because we don't believe in copyrights
doesn't mean that we shouldn't play by the rules that everyone else
adheres to. After all, the GPL is a license, and we use it because
licenses are enforceable. But where does it stop? Software should be
free. Sure, no problem. Why, because it's useful? Because Free software is
usually better software? Well, that's great. But bread is useful, too. Why
can't bread be free? Why stop there? What about cars or computer
hardware? The simple matter is that I will not be able to get a Jag from
the dealer for free no matter how much I rail on about the dangers of
patents and intellectual property in the automotive industry.

The difference is that we are computer users, programmers and system
administrators. That's the main difference. Most people in the automotive
industry don't think cars should be given away for free. After all, that's
where they make their money. But in the Linux biz, we're seeing a growing
community of people who believe that software should be free, who will
fight against proprietary action on any front that they can control. This
means that Linux people who are also into music are carrying the concept
into different areas of their creative endeavors. We're seeing a large
group of people committed to ideological precepts working in an
industry. In a way, it's a comparison to the unions of old, but we're
fighting on every edge of the company, from the rabble in the mailroom to
the execs.

Tell me what you think in the comments below, and look forward to next
week, when I tell you the good dirt about the Ottawa Linux Symposium.

See you in seven.

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