Internet Piracy Hot Topic At Webnoize '99

Attendees also discuss how record companies can get music fans to pay for downloadable music online.

LOS ANGELES — Piracy and the proliferation of free music

on the Net remained hot topics among the almost 1,400 attendees at

Webnoize '99.

But debate at the digital-music industry conference, held last Monday

through Wednesday at the Century Plaza Hotel, was sparked by one hot

topic in particular — how record companies can get music fans to

pay for downloadable music.

"We're at a time when there's a lot of stuff available for free,"

conference chairman Ted Cohen said. "But it's going to start

monetizing itself. It's going to start happening where people can get

music to you faster than you can go to a store.

"If Snoop Dogg creates a new piece of music, he can write it on

Wednesday, record it on Thursday and post it to the Web on Friday,"

Cohen continued. "The creative output of the artist is going to more

reflect where he was at the time that he created it as opposed to it

being a time capsule of where he was a year ago."

Rapper Ice-T had a more jaundiced view of the uses of the Internet.

After participating in Monday's "Voice of the Creator" panel, the

rapper said he doesn't think music distribution online will be much

different than it is now.

"Once the machine is made, it's just going to suck artists in like

everything else," said Ice-T, who released his 7th Deadly Sin

LP through the Internet-based label Atomic Pop. "All the Internet is

doing is building another major label another way. ... Some of these

guys probably never listened to a record, and they're going to be

running hip-hop. I can't let that happen."

In addition to Ice-T, the artist panel featured David Bowie

collaborator and guitarist Reeves Gabrels — who appears on

several songs on Bowie's current album, hours ..., including

"Thursday's Child" (RealAudio excerpt) — Spearhead singer Michael Franti, folk singer Jonatha Brooke, and producers Patrick Leonard (Madonna) and Jimmy Jam (Janet Jackson, Spice Girls).

Brooke, who is selling her latest album, Jonatha Brooke Live, on her website, said she's afraid that fans, because of their experiences online, have developed an expectation that all online music should be free.

Such expectations can foster rationalizations for online music piracy, an issue that struck sparks on the "Virtual Skull and Crossbones — Music Piracy and the Internet" panel and a discussion involving the Secure Digital Music Initiative, an effort to fight online piracy that the music industry has implemented in the year since the first Webnoize conference.

"If you don't want to have a piracy problem, put your digital master in Fort Knox and get the Army to guard it," said James Burger, a lawyer who represents firms involved in the recording industry's anti-piracy efforts.

Tara Lemmey, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, suggested instilling in consumers the idea that pirating music files is no different than "stealing your neighbor's firewood."