Burn Your CDs

As expected, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel gave the recording industry a preliminary injunction Wednesday shutting off the Napster service.

This happened despite the fact that only 16 percent of Internet users surveyed by PC Data agree with the recording industry’s position.

The question now is: How can the Internet consensus tell the money-dominated political system we’re not going to knuckle under?

Having a big bonfire of CDs would make the best TV pictures, but if that’s all that happens the industry is going to win. No, the best way to get the message across is by simply refusing to buy any more CDs.

Soundscan reports that for the first quarter of 2000 (with Napster) CD sales were up 8 percent. What might the industry do if third quarter sales were down 8 percent from a year ago?

I know this will be a sacrifice. Eric Clapton and B.B. King have finally released their great new collaboration. The title track is especially powerful (although I also like the last cut, which is a re-make of the classic “Come Rain or Come Shine”).

The industry, of course, is betting on our kids to break the back of the coming boycott. While CD sales slow as we age, the industry has been able to manipulate big numbers out of our kids, with acts like Britney Spears, ‘N Sync, and the crowd on the Pokimon soundtrack.

Both my kids listen to Radio Disney and love when their favorite acts appear on Nickelodeon. But they can still watch and listen without lining the recording industry’s pockets. I just need the courage to keep my credit card in my pocket this Christmas when they whine for the recordings. If I can do it, you can, too.

In fact there’s really no great sacrifice involved here. There’s no one for the RIAA to sue at Gnutella. Tell your kids to ask friends who have the latest recordings to lend them around. Have them read the new, 734-page Harry Potter book real slowly. Get them some new heroes like (my favorite) Lance Armstrong. Or go to sites like MP3.com and find legal downloads that sound just like their favorites.

The plain fact is the recording industry can’t force you to buy their stuff, or buy their political and legal positions. This is an important lesson for those of us who do business online. The credibility and goodwill we earn with our customers are vital they’re the only real assets we have.

You gain that asset by listening to people and following the market, not by wagging your finger at it and suing it. Throwing your best asset, your goodwill, in the gutter in order to force an old economic model on people is just wrong. So let the industry know in a language they can understand.

It’s perfectly legal to not buy something.

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